Okiage Folk Dolls from Kurume Town, Kyushu
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The Japanese word Okiage is divided into two parts: 1. oki, placing something and 2. age, building up or layering.

Okiage dolls were created by covering a thick layer of paper, which had been cut into the shape of a historic or legendary figure, with cotton padding then overlaying the design with brightly colored silk fabrics. The last step was for the craftsman to hand paint the doll's face in lovely detail. The end result was the finished upright Okiage doll representing a vibrant and dramatis personae, dressed in colorful high-quality silk fabrics with a three-dimensional appearance.

The dolls are held upright with a sharp thin piece of bamboo that is placed into a wooden holder. Thus the name Okiage was derived from 1. oki, placing (bamboo stick) and 2. age, layering (fabric & paper).

These Kurume Okiage dolls were originally created as a decorative element for the home and displayed during Japan's annual Hinamatsuri Doll's Festival or Girl's Day Festival held every March 3rd.The dolls followed the theme of the festival, that of royal personages at court. Okiage dolls reached their height of popularity in Kurume during the latter 1800s.

No one is quite sure how Okiage dolls came to Kurume but popular legend says they arrived from the historic cities of Edo and/or Kyoto sometime during the mid-1800s. Okiage dolls were uniquely found only in several places in Japan: Kurume Town, and Akita and Tottori Prefectures.

What began as a popular home decorative craft for use solely during the Hinamatsuri Festival, turned into a thriving enterprise when the most skilled of the home-artisans began expanding the variety of Okiage dolls into elaborate Kabuki characters (classical Japanese dance-drama). The general public purchased these new styles of Kabuki Okiage dolls, which could be displayed any time of the year, and presented as gifts to children or as home decorations. Most of the Okiage dolls seen here are in the Kabuki style, originate from Kurume Town and made during the late 1800s or early 1900s.