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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release March 11, 2010

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

Historical Museum hosts Japanese doll-making programs

Workshops, presentations feature cultural ambassador Yoko Tanaka

(DES MOINES) – World of Difference Cultural Ambassador Yoko Tanaka will discuss Hina Matsuri – Japanese Doll Making – this month in conjunction with the Japan Foundation’s “The Dolls of Japan” traveling exhibit currently on display at the State Historical Museum.

Tanaka will lead workshops, interpret Japanese doll-making and present her own Hina doll display at 10, noon and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 27, 2010, at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. The event is free and open to the public. Contact Maureen Korte at maureen.korte@iowa.gov or 515-281-4132 for more information.

Tanaka will discuss the history and the meaning of each Hina doll, and participants can learn origami; make hats from different historical time periods; and create Hina Lords and Ladies dolls, and Samurai helmets.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Tanaka has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years. She has been an interpreter of Japanese and English and currently works for The Principal Financial Group. As a World of Difference cultural ambassador, she facilitates workshops about Japanese culture and calligraphy.

World of Difference is an Iowa-based not-for-profit organization nurturing youth to develop skill, readiness and grace in intercultural relations. It collaborates with schools, community groups and businesses to create cultural experiences that immerse youth in new concepts and thought processes.

“The Dolls of Japan: Shapes of Prayer, Embodiments of Love” is open at the State Historical Museum through March 31. In addition to Iowa, the exhibit has been on display in Nevada, Washington and Guam, and in Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Korea, Morocco, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The history of dolls is long, with the oldest known doll in the world dating back nearly 24,000 years. The origin of Japanese dolls is also extremely old, beginning in the Jomon period, about 3,000 BC.

But it is only since the Edo period (1603-1868) that dolls have taken on a wide variety of forms and purposes, and many different types have been produced – as the embodiment of spirits to be worshipped, as objects endowed with magical powers, as playthings in human form, or simply for the purpose of display and appreciation.

No single country, however, has a greater variety of dolls than Japan, which cherishes its unique doll-making traditions to this day.

Japanese dolls reflect the customs of Japan and the aspirations of its people, possess distinctive regional attributes, and over the centuries have developed in many diverse forms. Dolls also provide a showcase for traditional Japanese craft products, such as textiles.

In “The Dolls of Japan,” dolls are grouped according to particular events in the Japanese calendar, their method of manufacture, their design and regional characteristics.

Included are Japan’s representative dolls, including Hina ningyo (Girls’ Festival dolls) and Gogatsu ningyo (Boys’ Day dolls), which have their origins in ancient customs; dolls connected to traditional performing arts like noh, bunraku and kabuki; regional dolls from throughout the country; and “creative dolls” produced by contemporary craftspeople.


The Japan Foundation engages in international cultural exchange activities in cooperation with over 130 countries around the world, focusing on three major program areas- the Arts and Cultural Exchange, Japanese-Language Education Overseas, and Japanese studies and intellectual exchange. In order to enhance the understanding of Japanese arts and culture through the visual arts, the Foundation collaborates with overseas museums on a wide range of exhibitions from traditional to contemporary arts. The Foundation also organizes traveling exhibits of paintings, ceramics, crafts, prints, and photographs that make their way around the world.

The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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