Japanese traditional artful expressions in the form of toys circulated primarily around “Kyodo”, (the regional and native land), and today are known as “Kyodo Gangu”, (folk toys). Japanese interactive toys were often made at home of simple materials, or in the case of upper classes, in small quantities by skilled craftsmen, (Kiji-shi). Throughout the prosperous Edo period, (1615–1868), and the Meiji period, (1867-1912), when Japan opened its doors to the West, makers created a kaleidoscope of unique toys enjoyed by commoners, well-to-do farmers, and merchants, who brought them home for their children.
Japanese toys have promoted creative play supporting cultural sensitivity. Interactive play and social skills have reflected popular styles of clothing, activities, occupations, social standards, and social customs. Continuing today, traditional toys, particularly wood toys, bring back old memories, which develop children’s sensitivities and the five senses.
Images of common toys such as spinning tops, pull and interactive toys, whistles, masks, kites, dolls, banks, and miniature models of various real-life environments and household objects, illustrate the beautiful skill and artistry of Japanese toy-makers, and have become a highly collected folk art throughout the world for they are now connecting adults to their youth. Many toys can be traced to a religious and supernatural origin, reflecting the beliefs and stories associated with Buddhism and shintoism, and a further appreciation of craftsmanship and culture.