Have you heard about the person who was called the first empress of Japan?
That person was Japan’s 14th emperor Chuai’s wife, Empress Consort Jingu. Empress Consort Jingu became Empress after the sudden death of her husband, Emperor Chuai. And despite being pregnant, she went into battle and attacked the ancient Korean kingdom on Silla, which it is said surrendered without struggle.
In Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture, there is a doll that was inspired by the Empress. Called ‘Princess-daruma’ (“Hime-daruma”), it is a one of Ehime’s traditional handicrafts.
Let’s start from the introduction of the workshop.
The Princess-daruma dolls are all handmade by the artisans.
The small, cute princess daruma doll has a diammeter of 6cm, a circumference of 18cm, and a height of 8cm. Reasonably priced, they make perfect souvenirs.
The lady pictured below has been making the dolls for 50 years and has earned the name Taishou (a name given to notable persons in the traditional craft of Princess-daruma dolls).
The sight of her making the dolls one by one with diligence is truly lovely.
There are two types of Princess-daruma doll. It may seem that there are male and female dolls, but actually both of them are the Empress (women).
There are various theories on the reason for the two types.
In the photograph below, the one in the red kimono is the Empress while pregnant. The one in black is said to be the Empress wearing men’s clothes when going into battle.
Therefore, the Princess-daruma doll wearing the red kimono is a talisman for prayers related to easy delivery, and for marriage, while the black version is popular for prayers related to victory, etc.
As they are thought to bring good fortune, in olden times, Princess-daruma dolls could be found decorating every house in Ehime prefecture.
While in Iyo Province, Empress Jingu found out that she was pregnant. A period of great happiness, the Empress would spend her days soaking in the waters of Dogo hot springs until she reached the stable period.
Created based on this legend, the dolls would be given as presents to women getting married and as talismans for easy delivery.
Around the Edo period, the dolls clothes were made together with the torso, from wood, but from around the mid-1950s (Showa 30), the clothes became the current gold brocade (a luxuriously beautiful piece of textile in which the patterns are weaved in by using either gilded paper or gold thread).
When the present emperor got married, this gift he sent to Her Royal Highness Michiko’s home became a hot topic and a great hit.
This is the new version of Princess-daruma doll called “Ai-chan”.
Straps and magnets and other Ai-chan goods are also popular.
The Ai-chan wish notes that fill wishes have also become a secret boom.
You can purchase them online, as well, so wishes can be sent from all over the country.
They will be offered to Dogo Isaniwa shrine that worships Empress Jingu.
Princess-daruma dolls, made one by one, wholeheartedly wishing for everyone’s happiness. A doll that envelops the way of life and heart of the legendary woman, Empress Jingu.
We hope that the tradition continues from here on, as well.
Shop for Princess-daruma dolls and other Japanese-style goods:
Location: 3-8-1 Okaido, Matsuyama city, Ehime Prefecture
(Right in front of the place for getting on the Matsuyama castle ropeway)
Business hours: 9:30~17:30
Holidays: Open everyday
HP: http://www.matsuyama-minatoya.jp/ (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Oohashi
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