Edo. The name of the capital city before it took the name Tokyo. The craftsmen of the Edo period laid the foundation for Tokyo to adopt the western culture and further ripen it. The traditional crafts of Tokyo continue to evolve and sharpen. The next few pages offer an introduction to some of these crafts and the modern people who further mature them.
Children all over Japan celebrate the Hina-matsuri, also known as Doll Day or Girls Day, on March third; and the Feast of Banners on May fifth, which was once known as Boy’s Day but has become Children’s Day. On these days children receive dolls at a young age from relatives, which they display every year. This doll culture in Japan began generations ago as a way to pray for the health and vitality of children. Originally, these dolls were the purview of the nobles, but during the Edo period, the dolls became part of common households.
Doll makers who accompanied regional lords during alternate attendance—the requirement that the lords spend equal time living in Edo and their home fiefs— conveyed their skills to apprentices who refined doll making further and established the foundation for Edo Dolls, also known as the kokinbina. The apprentices wove this tradition into the cultural tapestry it is today.
The makers of Edo Dolls poured their hearts and souls into their work, breathing life into each doll. Each doll begins with a mold into which they carve facial features. Carving around the glass marbles used as eyes, the doll makers achieve realistic eyelids and spacing. This attention to detail gives each doll its unique and vibrant facial expressions, which for Hinamatsuri Dolls is softer, and for the male counterparts more powerful, conveying a sense of bravery. Edo Dolls captivate with their delicate attention to detail, drawing eyes of passers-by as they offer a sense of vitality hidden within the soul of the doll.