Saturday, October 7, 2017

All Dolled Up

So it's been a while since I've finished one of my plushies.  Sadly, but not really sadly, my "free" time has been taken up by my painting class, and most of my creative energy has gone into that.  Probably at some point I'll write about it, but that's pretty far down the list at the moment.  I still get a little work in during church on Sundays (because I'm a heathen and that's how I roll), but that doesn't get them finished, even if I have been staying for the whole 3 hour block of meetings most weeks since I moved here.
Still I haven't forgotten about my old obsession, and when I got an email from our curriculum coordinator a week and a half ago that said one of our students had invited the female teachers over that Friday for a doll festival and Indian food, I jumped at the chance.  If she hadn't been an awesome kid and a member of my new favorite class, it might have been a bit awkward.  Instead, it was one of my favorite experiences since coming to Japan.  It turns out that southern India has a tradition similar to Japan's Hina Matsuri, in which you put up a display of dolls - featuring the Hindu gods - to bless the girls of the house.  It was cool to see all of the dolls, and the way her mom included dolls and toys from a variety of traditions.
It got me thinking about my hobby again.  Over the summer I set up an Etsy shop to try and make a little money off my finished plushies, but so far I've just gotten a couple of views a week and not actually sold anything.  Which I guess is okay, since I'm pretty sure if I can figure out a venue to sell them in, I'd make way more money selling them here.  A venue such as the Ningyocho Doll Market.

I ended this week feeling kind of beat down (#expatrollercoaster) and thought I would just spend the weekend inside, licking my wounds.  And then last night, I remembered that I wanted to check out doll memorials, and that's kind of where this story goes from there.

When I went to AnimeIowa the first time, the panel that I actually enjoyed the most (because I - you know - learned from it) was about dolls in Japanese culture.  Most world cultures have dolls, but the Japanese have a whole set of beliefs about them.  They have a festival that features dolls as the centerpiece.  They believe dolls take on our misfortunes, that they even have souls.  And things with souls deserve a proper sendoff, hence, doll memorials.

Now, today was not one such memorial.  Hopefully I'll make it to one eventually - I was kind of pissed that I missed the ceremony in Kyoto last fall by one frickin' day - but there wasn't one today.  At least, I don't think so.  See, one of the search results Google was so kind as to cough up was Ningyocho's doll market, and the article I read about it mentioned a doll memorial in conjunction with the event.  I found the temple where it supposedly takes place - Okannonji - and there were dolls displayed in the prayer hall, but they didn't seem to be in immediate danger of immolation.  Maybe that was later in the day, though...
Ningyocho is a street that historically had a lot of dollmakers and their shops.  On a normal day, the name is about all that's left of the history - ningyo is the catch-all word for the whole spectrum of dolls, from plushies to puppets.  There are clock towers on the street that have automatons which give a little bit of the history and show off scenes from the old daily life, but otherwise it's just another street of Tokyo.  Most days, at any rate.

This week, though, Ningyocho gets back to its roots and hosts a doll market.  Along the sidewalks vendors have tents selling a variety of dolls.  Some are the kind of cutesy, handmade dolls that you might find in any craft store in America.  Some are very traditional Japanese dolls - the ones for Hina Matsuri, for example - which my countrymen would probably find as creepy as I find their continuing assertion that they should be able to own as many guns as they want, in any variety they want...

...am I still pissed???  Oh yah, you betcha.  As we say in Japan, ばか...

Several of the vendors were also selling pieces of kimono fabric.  I had deep regrets that I've blown through so much of my paycheck already, because I could have gone a little nuts buying cloth, even if I haven't been able to finish a character in several months.  As it was, I was looking at some of the flashiest pieces in one of the last tents when I realized that the next plushie I started wouldn't need flashy fabric - no, Hoozuki would need the black silk that I'd seen at the other end of the street for only 500 yen, so I promptly marched myself back down there to get it.

It was fun to see everything that was for sale.  Not sure how I would go about getting in on the action - probably actually learning to speak Japanese would be a start - but my dolls are definitely different from everything else that was being sold.  In addition to the fabric I bought my own hime (princess) doll, so that I can set up a display when March comes around.  I didn't buy a prince doll, though - I'm going to take a page out of my student's mom's book and improvise to give my Hina Matsuri a distinct otome flavor (mwahahaha).  On the way home, I had to make an additional transfer because the local Keikyu train wasn't running and the express didn't stop at Shimbashi.  I was not impressed initially, but when I found the above fountain on the platform when I was transferring back from the Yamanote line, I was so delighted that I decided it was all worth it.  After all, it's not every day you get to see the pissing boy dressed up and on a train platform in Tokyo.

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