I-Doll 23 – Recap

I-Doll is one of the larger events for dolls and doll enthusiasts held in cities all over Japan. It features both professional retailers and small home-based hobbyists side-by-side in a close quarters free market area that inspires the likes of Dolly Dolly, Dollybird, and other doll hobby magazine/books, or mooks as they’re called for their wealth of information and collectability. Last Monday marked the 23rd of such events in Tokyo, which was held on a national holiday, swelling the number of participants to near unnavigable heights, and perhaps inspiring the wealth of creativity and care that went into the amazingly intense four hour event.

One of the differences witnessed at this I-Doll was the tendency for owners to dress the part in their elaborate creative themes. Though some dealers usually wear costumes to match their dolls or collaborate with display themes, their number was definitely on the rise. One gentleman, who I’ve witnessed craft his articulately jointed feet and hips over the last year for an original ball joint doll that can both rei (bow) and seiza (sit properly), wore on this festive occasion a colorful women’s yukata, or cotton summer kimono, perhaps to highlight the refined femininity of his creation. As any puppeteer would testify, these two movements are the foundation of any civilized conduct or posturing concerning ningyo, which can mean both puppet and doll, amounting to a lesson one instruction; hence, the marked difference between his product and the many varieties of ball jointed dolls on the market which can’t negotiate such courtesies. If anything, it certainly drew a lot of attention if not business.

Displays, too, tended to tell a more complete story instead of fragments of a fairy tale. Special attention to backgrounds and backdrops along with other props with provided many unique photo opportunities. One dealer used circular cuts of green fabric over a sheer, rippled white lace to represent lily pads floating on the water in a playful fairy-like scene. Another shoe-dealer used a series of elaborate miniaturized shoe racks to present their product. And as always, dealers played away during idle time, and I was able to capture a few images of their dolls in motion. Witnessing these small moments of almost intimate action always brings to mind the passion and dedication that allows for such events, at least four major varieties of which are held in Tokyo alone.

However, another prevalent overtone was the lack of doll carrying owners in the crowd. Usually participants will not only be carrying doll cases, few of which were to be seen, but also carrying around their prized possessions. Perhaps due to the immense crowding, which made such actions dangerous, or perhaps due to the lack of photo space usually available for owners to pose and show off their dolls, only a handful were to be seen.

However, I-Doll 23 yet again showcased the immense creativity and perfection that has been going into dolls and doll related goods, along with the variety of people that take part in doll culture. Both the casual hobbyist that probably won’t break even but enjoys the event and big names like Blue Fairy and Hobby Japan join together for a day, along with miniature furniture makers, weapon smiths, patissiers, tailors, optometrists, and jewelers – all in the name of a passion for dolls.

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