These dolls played a large role in the important and lively events of the annual Girl's Day and Boy's Day celebrations in the late Edo period.
Iwatsuki Ningyo began in the late Edo period, and by the early Meiji period, these festival dolls were made by farmers in the off season, using techniques borrowed from samurai families that made dolls as a side job, and the resulting dolls began to be produced in a large-scale manner in Iwatsuki, and sold mainly in the Kanto region, becoming a valuable source of supply of the doll tradition.
Additionally, in the Meiji era, Iwatsuki dolls expanded production of Boy's May Festival dolls, and the area developed into a valuable doll-producing area preserving the traditions of the Edo period and becoming one of the nations major doll-producing reagions.
Iwatsuki dolls characteristically have a large torso to which the head is attached, and the head itself has round contours and clearly defined facial features. The eyes are large and somewhat brightly colored.
How to make
The head of the Iwatsuki dolls is made of soft, low-resin, easily carved pawlonia or other wood, or it is made of "toso" - pawlonia sawdust mixed with wheat gluten and hardened in a mold, then dried. The figure is then coated in hide glue mixed with chalk to make it resistant against sunlight, heat, and discoloration.
The blending of chalk and hide glue is a difficult task achieved by craftsmen with years of experience, and the resulting finish is beautiful and smooth, closely resembling real human skin. The hair is made of raw silk threads that closely resemble human hair, and the torso is made from a bundle of straw by cutting to fit the size so it can be manipulated easily, and then dressed with clothing made of silk and cotton textiles.