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May 25, Sun.*This program was first broadcast on Jun. 21, 2012


From ritual charm to children's toy, from star of the stage to life companion, dolls play a wide range of roles in Japanese society. Japanese dolls have their origins in religious charms that absorbed misfortunes or diseases that would otherwise befall people. Over time, dolls became toys for children, works of art valued for their beauty, and even part of the performing arts. It is a traditional Japanese belief that a doll can have its own soul. When dolls become old and worn out, some people go to great lengths to give them a proper send-off. The United States and Japan once had a historic exchange of dolls. These dolls were sent as symbols of friendship, but war later twisted their original meaning.

On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, we look at dolls - the special roles they have played over the ages and the special affection the Japanese have always felt for them.