Archive for the 'Toy' Category

Musha Ningyo: Japanese Warrior Dolls

The Sam Noble Ethnology collection has a set of Japanese Musha Ningyo (warrior) dolls that were created for Gogatsu, or “Boys’ Day” held annually on May 5th. Girls have Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival, held on March 3rd. Unlike Hina Matsuri, a doll display is not required for Gogatsu. The most important festive item is a banner or windsock in the shape of a carp attached from a pole near the home (Figure 1). Traditionally, one fish is raised for each boy child, however since 1948, the Gogatsu holiday was rededicated by the Japanese government to include all children (Kodomo no hi). Ever since, families hoist a carp banner for each child. The carp symbolizes strength for its determination to swim upstream. Even though dolls are not required for Gogatsu, many dolls have been purchased and displayed for the occasion. The most popular are soldiers and infamous generals, legendary rules, and boy heroes. Tigers, representing Japan’s relationship with Korea, and a white horse, symbolizing the Emperor, are also common. A doll that represents an armed soldier or lord is a Musha ningyo. The five dolls described below are a mix of famous boy heroes, generals, and legendary rulers.

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Figure 1. Carp windsocks, courtesy of BBC Two YouTube video: Children’s Day Festival-Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Islands

 

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Figure 2. Kintaro Doll

Kintaro (Golden Boy) is a popular young hero who is displayed during Gogatsu to inspire boys to have courage and bravery. He is known as the Japanese “Hercules” for his incredible strength. Kintaro was known to uproot trees to create bridges over torrential mountain streams. Kintaro was the son of an officer of the imperial guards who fell into disgrace and took his own life. His mother, Yaegiri, described as a beautiful courtesan, escaped to Mount Ashigara. Some accounts say that she raised Kintaro, while others suggest that she abandoned the infant and he was nursed by mountain witches, yama-uba. Kintaro’s first companions were the wild animals of the forest. There are stories of Kintaro racing against the animals and he is often depicted as either riding a bear, welding an ax, or judging a wrestling match between the animals. Most depictions of Kintaro have the character welding an ax, but this doll holds a rope (Figure 2). Unlike the other dolls, Kintaro’s skin has a reddish tone, indicating the character’s relationship with the natural elements. When he became an adult, Kintaro was approached by Raiko’s (legendary heroic leader) retainer, Watanabe no Tsuna. Tsuna recruited Kintaro to be one of the Four Guardian Kings, protectors of Raiko. Kintaro’s name was changed to Sakata no Kintoki and as one of the Four Guardian Kings, they are credited with exterminating all the monsters, ogres, and demons in Japan.

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Figure 3. Momotaro, front side.

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Figure 4. Momotaro, back side. 

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Momotaro Doll

Asia: Japan

Wood, Textile, Porcelain, Hair/Fur, Other Metal

Momotaro is another highly popular boy hero. A childless old elderly couple found a the boy in a large peach. They name him Momotaro (Peach Boy). He becomes a valiant youth, and befriends a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant. Together, they traveled to Devil’s Island (Onigashimu) to slay the demons and bring home treasures. Here is a version of the story, written in 1908 by Y.T. Ozaki: Momotaro, or The Story of the Son of a Peach. Momotaro’s legend became an emblem of modern Japanese nationality in the late 19th and 20th centuries. According to Dr. Klaus Antoni, professor from the University of Tuebingen, Momotaro’s legend was used as war propaganda for young school pupils. Devil’s Island is alluded to be Hawaii and the devils to be the American soldiers. There were also two animated films Momotaro’s Sea Eagles in 1943 and Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors in 1945 (Figure 5), which was also the first full-length Japanese animation film. Both were directed by Mitsuyo Seo, who was ordered by the Japanese Naval Ministry to make these propaganda films. Both films are available on YouTube. Click on the film titles above to watch the films.

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Figure 5. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors, photo courtesy of Crunchyroll. 

After WWII, Momotaro’s status as war propaganda diminished and the legendary character remains as a popular model for courage and bravery. This Momotaro doll (Figure 3) holds a standard in his left hand with Japanese Hirigana characters for Nihon ichi, meaning “Japan #1.” There is a peach on the end of the standard, and a symbol of a peach on the back of his vest (Figure 4). He wears a bright orange samurai outfit and a Kabuto helmet. Underneath his helmet, Momotaro’s hairstyle is a chonmage (topknot), often associated with the Edo period. Unlike Kintaro, this Momotaro doll has pale white skin, indicating youth and purity.

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Figure 6. Minamoto no Yoshisune Doll

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Minamoto no Yoshisune Doll

Asia: Japan

Paper, Textile, Porcelain, Hair/Fur

Like the Momotaro doll, the Yoshitsune doll is wearing a bright orange samurai outfit and has a similar Kabuto helmet (Figure 6). However, Yoshitsune is wearing more armor and is holding a tassel in his left hand. Minamoto no Yoshisune was a great young general of the late 12th century. When Yoshisune’s father, Minamoto Yoshitomo, was killed in the Heiji Distrubance (1159), Yoshisune was raised in a Buddhist monastery. According to a popular legend, he encountered Benkei, a warrior monk on a bridge.  They crossed swords. Benkei was defeated by Yoshisune and became his retainer (Figure 7). When Yoshisune was 15, he left the monastery to join his older brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo. Yoshisune became a general quickly due to his talent of military leadership in the Genki and Heike wars between the Minamoto and Taira clans. Thus, he became popular in the Emperor’s court. Yoritomo became jealous of Yoshitsune’s popularity and branded Yoshisune as a traitor. Yoshitsune tried to raise a rebellion against his brother. When he failed, he wandered Japan for several years as a fugitive before his forced suicide. Yoritomo brought Japan under his control and became the first Shogun.

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Figure 7. Yoshisune and Benkei Japanese Print, courtesy of the Honolulu Museum of Art

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Figure 8. Jimmu Tenno Doll

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Jimmu Tenno Doll

Asia: Japan

Porcelain, Textile, Hair/Fur, Wood, Plastic

Jimmu Tenno is known as the first emperor of Japan (Figure 9). He is the grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Not much is told of this quasi-historical figure. As told in the Kojiki, “Records of Ancient Matters,” the oldest accounts of the myths surrounding the origins of Japan, one of Jimmu’s retainers dreamt of a magic sword, sent by Amaterasu, to give to Jimmu. The retainer woke up, located the sword, and presented it to Jimmu. Jimmu used the blade to pacify the central Land of the Reed Plain (Yamato), built a palace there, and married a local princess of divine ancestry.

The Jimmu Tenno doll wears two of the Sacred Treasures of Japan around his neck: The Divine Mirror and the Yasakani no Magatama jewels (Figure 8). The sword on his back might be the third treasure, the Kusanagi sword. These treasures are signs of his divine ancestry. This doll is noticeably more realistic than the others. Also, instead of samurai armor, he is wearing brocaded clothing in an ancient Chinese style, another indication of his legendary status. The bird next to Jimmu’s foot, a kite, was originally on his hand.

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Figure 9. Jimmu Tenno Japanese Print, courtesy of Toshidama Galley. 

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Figure 10. Toyomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa Dolls. 

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Toyomi Hideyoshi Doll

Asia: Japan

Wood, Textile, Porcelain, Hair/Fur, Metal, Paper

Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590-98 was a general of peasant birth, not of samurai descent (Figure 11). He completed the 16th century unification of Japan after more than two centuries of feudal warfare. He prohibited the use of swords by farmers, merchants, and monks and introduced the shi-nō-kō-shō which froze class distinctions by separating warriors, farmers, artisans, and tradesmen. Each class lived in different areas of a town or village. The purpose was to promote order in a feudal society. Since he was originally a peasant, Hideyoshi was illiterate and considered uncultured. He secretly educated himself, wrote poetry, and learned the intricate rituals of the tea ceremony. He fought in numerous battles, and invaded Korea twice, until his death at the age of 62, but he did not ever proclaim himself as Shogun.

The Hideyoshi doll (sitting on the horse) has a helmet with a metal sunburst fanning out from the back (Figure 9). Much like the Jimmu Tenno doll, Hideyoshi and the second man, who is probably Kato Kiyomasa, Hideyoshi’s general, look realistic, including flesh-tone skin rather than the distinctive white pale completion of Momotaro and Yoshisune.  Kato Kiyomasa is from the same town and not from samurai descent. He was a formidable fighter and leader, and aided in the invasion of Korea. The prints of Kiyomasa show him with a long, thick beard, and wearing a distinctive silver conical helmet with antlers (Figure 12).

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Figure 11. Toyomi Hideyoshi Japanese Print, courtesy of thinklink. 

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Figure 12. Kato Kiyomasa, Hideyoshi’s general Japanese Print, courtesy of The British Museum 

(Caitlin Severs)

References/Further Readings

Antoni, Klaus. 1991. “Momotaro (The Peach Boy) and the Spirit of Japan: Concerning the Function of a Fairy Tale in Japanese Nationalism of the Early Showa Age.” Asian Folklore Studies. 50.1: 155-188.

Barbanson, Adrienne. 1961. Fables in Ivory: Japanese Netsuke and Their Legends. Tuttle: North Clarendon, Vermont. Pg. 76.

Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Minamoto-Yoshitsune

Kigawa, Michiyo. “Kodomo no hi: Children’s Day Celebration,”

http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/kodomo_no_hi_childrens_day_celebration#sthash.71W2Z76N.dpbs.

Kuwata, Tadachika. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Toyotomi-Hideyoshi.

Shoaf, Judy. 2015. “Gogatsu or ‘Boys’ Day’: Hero Dolls,” https://people.clas.ufl.edu/jshoaf/japanese-dolls/gogatsu/.

Shoaf, Judy. 2015. “The Uses of Japanese Dolls,” https://people.clas.ufl.edu/jshoaf/japanese-dolls/doll-uses/.

Willis, Roy G. Ed. 1993. World Mythology. Henry Holt and Company: New York. Pg. 121-122.

 

 

 

Object: Hand Game Set

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Hand game set
Kiowa
Carnegie, OK
Ca. 2009
Materials: Painted wood and plastic pegs

This object is a Kiowa hand game set. The set consists of a rectangular painted wooden base (27.5” long by 8.5” high by 5” wide), 37 painted wooden rods that fit into holes along the top of the base (each rod is 12” long and 3/8” in diameter), and 8 pegs made of white plastic that fit into holes along the sides of the base (each peg is 4” long by 3/8” in diameter). Eighteen of the rods are on the left side and are painted dark blue with small white dots all over. Another 18 rods are placed on the right side and are painted in a mottled red and yellow design. There is a single central rod, painted blue with white dots on one end and mottled red and yellow on the other. Half of the pegs are decorated with 3 bands of color while the other half of the pegs are plain. Two decorated and two undecorated pegs are on each side of the base. The base is painted red with a mountain landscape outlined in yellow. Above the mountains, the rest of the base is painted dark blue with small white dots, possibly representing stars.  There is a yellow, red, and blue maple leaf emblem on the top center of the base.

The hand game, common to at least 81 different Native American tribes in North America, is a game of chance. Men, women, and children of all ages play this game. The game can vary in size size, from only a handful of people to around 50 people! Hand games go by many different names amongst the various tribes, including “stick games” or “hands and bones,” but all of them involve guessing in which hand an object, or series of objects, is hidden. This type of game is very old. In fact, Lewis and Clark mentioned this game in their records of meeting with the Nez Perce Indians of Idaho in the early 1800’s.

Generally, a bone, wooden, or plastic bead at least 2 inches long is the object being hidden. In many cases, there are multiple beads (usually two or four). There are always two teams that sit in rows across from each other. A scorekeeper and the musicians usually sit to one side. The game starts by drawing lots to see which team will get to have the bead (or beads) “in hand.” This means that they are the ones in possession of the bead and are responsible for hiding it. The players on the opposite side, who are to guess who is hiding the bead, must watch closely to keep track of where the players are trying to pass the bead from one hand to the other and from one person to another without exposing the bead to view. Each player in the row that has the bead “in hand” act as if they, specifically, are the one to have the bead in order to try to fool their opponents. The teams actively cheer on their own side while trying to distract the opposing team with songs and dances. Every time the opposing side correctly guesses where the bead is, they win a point. The side guessing continues to guess until they miss; then they switch and the other team guesses. The 30 (or more) counting sticks, sometimes referred to as arrows, are used to keep score. The first team to 10 points wins!

Take a look at this video to see a contemporary hand game from Oklahoma:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Balero

E/1930/1/1
Latin America: possibly Peruvian
Date unknown
Materials: wood, string

This object is a balero toy from Latin America. Baleros are fashioned from a ball and a pin joined together by a string. Usually, the ball contains a small cylindrical opening that fits over the pin. Balero toys are similar to cup-and-ball games, in which players attempt to sling a ball into a cup by manipulating the movement of the ball from the string. Balero players maneuver the ball by holding the pin and swinging the ball into the air with the string while attempting to catch it on the tip of the pin.

Baleros are thought to have originated from bilboquets in France during the sixteenth century. Bilboquets are variants of the ball-and-pin toys and monarchs, such as King Henry III of France, popularized the game in the European royal courts. Eventually, the game spread to the Americas, though there is evidence similar games existed among indigenous groups for many years before interactions with Europeans. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, balero toys became fashionable among elite circles, and King Louis XV was reported to have owned several ivory ball-and-pin sets.

Today, baleros are common in tourist shops and toy stores around the world. Versions of balero toys from different countries can be seen here. The game has also been featured in music and art work, as in the work pictured to the left. However, for most children and adults, baleros remain a simple, yet enjoyable diversion.

[Lauren Simons]

Object: Ivory Figurine

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Ivory Carving of Man
Ca. 1920s-1940s
India
Materials: Ivory and black teak wood

Ivory is a precious raw material that is used in many applications, including miniature statues and large intricate figures. Ivory comes from animals in the family Elephantidae and it is harvested from the tusks of this species. Ivory tusks are the only incisors that this species posses.  The object above is from southern India, and it may be a chess piece known as a rook. Three countries primarily contribute to the ivory industry: Japan, China, and India. Ivory carving dates back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, as well as prehistoric Inuit, even though they use walrus ivory. These traditions are usually carried on through the families and are considered to be ancient.

Ivory does not just come from elephants but various animals as well. Since 1973 an organization known as CITES, placed both the African and Asian Elephants on their list of various species that can no longer be killed for their ivory. Many ivory carvers and local shops were forced to close due to the ban of ivory trading. Substitutes of ivory sources are walrus, narwhal, hippopotamus, mastodon ivory, and cow bones have been used.  Mastodon ivory is considered to be the best substitute for elephant ivory. Mastodon Ivory, also known as fossil ivory can be found in Russia and Alaska. Most of the time when prehistoric animals die they turn to fossils, however, when the mastodons are frozen they do not fossilize. Instead, the ice protects animal from this process.  After the permafrost has melted away, ivory hunters and paleontologist can find and remove the ivory from its site.

Mastodon ivory has a natural earthy brown hue to its appearance, and it is easy to tell the difference from the whiter, Elephant ivory. An etching technique, also known as scrimshaw, brings our the color in the ivory. The tusk itself has a blue center, and after being heated, the exterior of the tusk changes to a turquoise color. Mammoths and mastodons differ in many ways biologically, but according to CITES these species are preferred over the killing of the present day elephants because retrieving raw materials poses no threat to the extinct species.  It is unknown, however, how much more mammoth and mastodon fossil ivory remain.

[Constance Clark-Lecona]

Object: Ball

E/1968/2/6
Tarahumara: Ball
Central America
20th Century
Materials: wood

This wooden ball facilitates a game of endurance running for the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. The wooden ball is used in a game called rarajipari or “foot throwing.” The ball is kicked in relays for up to days at a time, depending on whether it is an impromptu game or one planned well in advance. In games that are planned, bets are often taken by spectators. Referring to themselves as Raramuri, meaning “foot runner,” “running foot,” or “light foot,” their daily activities consist of long distance running and traveling in high altitudes and hot, rough terrain. There is somewhat of a cult following from the runners of ultra marathons, who admire the endurance and bare-footed or Huarache-wearing running style of the Raramuri.

Residing in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and mostly in harsh environments of heat and high altitude, many Raramuri are far from what many perceive as “modern” civilization. Many still live in cliffs, caves and stone houses. Their economic system is based on bartering and trade, rather than the national currency.

This YouTube video is a short documentary of the lives of the Raramuri. At the five minute mark, they address the kickball game and history of running in this culture.

[Stephanie Adams]

Object: Woven Ball

E/1972/3/3
Myanmar: Woven Ball
Asia
20th Century
Materials: Rattan

This ball made of strips of woven rattan is called a chinlone, which is the Burmese word for “cane-ball”. Chinlone is a sport that has been played in Myanmar (formerly Burma) for over 1500 years, and was traditionally a performance for royalty. Over time the sport has evolved from mere entertainment to a game of athleticism, concentration, and grace. The goal of the game is to keep the chinlone from touching the ground by using your feet and knees. But rather than scoring points, the players attempt to keep the ball up with dynamic, dance-like moves. The form and position of the body is an important aesthetic of the game, as well as the ball itself, which makes an audible clicking noise. A video of the game can be seen here.

Cleaning Rattan Strips

The largest festival which garners the most chinlone teams is a Buddhist festival called Waso, which is highlighted in a documentary called Mystic Ball. A clip from the documentary can be seen here. Not only is chinlone a leisure sport, it is also considered by some to be a spiritual activity. The focus required to keep the ball in the air is likened to meditation and is called jhana, which has the same etymological roots as the Buddhist term zen. Similar sports are played throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand. The origins of the game are thought to come from an ancient Chinese game call cuju or tsu chu, which is now recognized by FIFA as the earliest form of soccer.

[Daniel Gonzalez]


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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