Classic Ryukyu dolls showing at exhibition

A Ryukyu couple in traditional garb is typical of Tokumura’s works.

Hand crafted dolls have a long history in Japan, but Ryukyu dolls, which are said to be especially beautiful because of the way they’ve been fabricated through the ages, are now the feature of the Mitsuko Tokumura Exhibition – Dream of Ryukyu Dolls.

The exhibition now in progress at the Naha City Museum of History transports visitors to the impoverished years on Okinawa immediately after World War II, when Tokumura and others like her struggled to keep their heritage alive through creating dolls.  The exhibition, located on the fourth floor of Palette Kumoji in Naha City, runs through December 25th.  The Tokumura Exhibition, which is open daily

Another fine example of Tokumura’s dolls.

except Thursdays, is open 10 a.m. ~ 7 p.m.  Admission is ¥300 for adults, ¥200 for visitors ages 16-23, and ¥100 for youngsters 6-15.

Born in Shuri on 1913, after the Battle of Okinawa Mitsuko Tokumura saw in front of her her homeland Okinawa unrecognizable. Many women had lost their father, husband and sons and were living in poverty. In 1947 she established an occupation and education facility, Shuri Culture Tailor Studio. Her goal was not only tailoring, but also educate her students in English, music, history and flower arrangement as well. Her intent was to lead her ladies to progress, and improvement was her motto. She also opened a sideline business, which offered employment for her graduates.

The business sold Ryukyu dolls, ties, and gift cards with unique shapes and colors that became a hit with the American military personnel in Okinawa, and tourists from mainland Japan. The items were even sold on military base stores such as the PX and gift shops.  With that, she changed the name of her venture to Shuri Women’s Handcraft Club. Thanks to this, more and more women were able to support their families.  Her endeavors also helped the sales of dolls to become a financial resource in the tourism industry.

The dolls, ties and gift cards became very popular among U.S. military personnel, and helped many women to support their families.

In this exhibition, visitors can experience the thoughts and feelings the women put into their endeavors after the war through the actual dolls made at that time, and through documents depicting their work that have been preserved.