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Traditional clay dolls of heroes, emperors on show at special exhibition in western Japan

Nagahama Dolls are seen at a special exhibition at the Hamada Castle Museum in the city of Hamada, Shimane Prefecture. (Mainichi/Yukihiro Takeuchi)

HAMADA, Shimane -- A special exhibition of traditional Nagahama Dolls, which are produced in this western Japan city, is currently being held at the Hamada Castle Museum.

Nagahama Dolls are made by baking unglazed clay shaped with molds, which are then colored. Various characters have been made into the dolls, including an emperor and empress couple, the deified spirit of Sugawara no Michizane -- a ninth century statesman and scholar -- and Japanese fairy tale hero Kintaro. The dolls were typically given to children on special occasions, and have even been taken by merchant ships on the Sea of Japan to as far as the north of the country, in Hokkaido, and the Hokuriku and Yamaguchi regions.

At the venue, 30 dolls made between the Edo period (1603-1868) to the early 1960s are set out. The colorful dolls have simple, warm expressions. Visitors can enjoy the exhibition, which is free to enter, until July 26. The museum is closed on Mondays and days which immediately follow national holidays.

(Japanese original by Yukihiro Takeuchi, Masuda Local Bureau)

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