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  • Writer's pictureTodd DeGarmo

Geisha Ningyo

This geisha doll (ningyo) is the newest addition to Folk Arts All Around Us, an evolving exhibition at Crandall Public Library. It is 11.5 inches tall and was a gift from a Japanese friend, and is part of our Saga City, Japan, Sister City Collection.

She represents the female entertainers who perform various traditional Japanese arts as a way to entertain men in public places. These dolls wear beautiful kimono, with an instrument in hand, and tend to have an exaggerated elegant leaning-back pose.

Other dolls of this type represent characters in the elaborately costumed, dance-drama Kabuki, or musicians, or samurai, or courtiers of the emperor.

These dolls are luxury items, expensive and usually used for special display in Japanese homes for hundreds of years. Since World War II, American and other visitors have also collected them.

Our example was made by the Yoshitoku Doll Company. Founded in 1711, the company has continually operated in the same location for over 300 years. The present owner, Tokubei Yamada, represents the 12th generation, and his company is generally considered to be the oldest doll merchant in Tokyo.


Be sure to watch for more posts about our Folk Arts Collection, and for our new project, Folk Arts All Around Us, an evolving exhibition found throughout Crandall Public Library.

Todd DeGarmo is the founding director of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library, in Glens Falls, NY, and can be reached at He’s worked as a public sector folklorist and educator in various venues for over 42 years, and is the editor of Voices: Journal of New York Folklore. He lives in the upper Hudson Valley of upstate New York, a stone’s throw from the Battenkill near the Vermont border.

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