Star-Bulletin Features

Eye On The Arts

Honolulu Academy of Arts director George Ellis, left, received an elaborate Hina doll collection from Keizaburo Fujita, brother of the late Ryukuichi Tsuji, who owned the dolls.

Rare Hina dolls a gift
for Academy’s 75th

Star-Bulletin Staff

A rare collection of more than 100 Hina dolls from the family of Ryukichi Tsuji was presented to Honolulu Academy of Arts director George Ellis in Akita, Japan, in honor of the academy's 75th anniversary.

"It was our brother's strong wish during his lifetime that his Japanese doll collection be donated to a museum one day," wrote Shujiro Tsuji, the eldest surviving brother of Ryukichi, on the family's behalf. "We are gratified the Academy recognizes the quality of the collection and we are very pleased with their acceptance of this gift."

The dolls are gosho-ningyo, a type of doll with face and hands made of wood pulp covered with a mixture of plaster and ground oyster shell, which gives them a lustrous porcelain-like surface. The textiles used in the costumes and hangings are specially woven to scale, and represent very rich courtly materials.

An emperor doll, shown here last month, is one of the 100 in the collection.

The dolls have elaborate accessories that reflect their status and activity (such as musical instruments). Fine furnishings (dowry and dinner sets, wardrobes and dressing tables) were all made to scale, as well as the folding screens that provide background materials for the platforms.

There is an unusual variety of dolls within the collection, from the Imperial family and courtiers at the top of the hierarchy and the top platform, to more common folk.

The dolls are dated from the end of the Edo to early Meiji periods (circa 1850s) which gives them antique status. Ryukuichi collected the dolls before World War II.

Ellis was accompanied on the trip by isle resident Ruth Sakai, granddaughter of Ryukichi.

The academy plans to display the dolls in conjunction with next year's Honolulu Festival and during the Hina Matsuri (Girl's Day) festival in Hawaii next March.

For information, call the academy at 532-8700.

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