What is an Ichimatsu doll?

Definition from Wikipedia:  Ichimatsu dolls represent little girls or boys, correctly proportioned and usually with flesh-colored skin and glass eyes. The original Ichimatsu were named after an 18th-century Kabuki actor, and must have represented an adult man, but since the late 19th century the term has applied to child dolls, usually made to hold in the arms, dress, and pose (either with elaborately made joints or with floppy cloth upper arms and thighs). Baby boy dolls with mischievous expressions were most popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, but in 1927 the friendship doll exchange involved the creation of 58 32″ dolls representing little girls, to be sent as a gift from Japan to the United States, and the aesthetic of these dolls influenced dollmakers to emulate this type of a solemn, gentle-looking little girl in elaborate kimono.


See the tongue sticking out? 🙂

Probably the first time I saw one of these dolls was at a flea market.  It was so cute – and very inexpensive.  So I bought it.  Then I started to notice more of them.  Antique shops, other flea markets, online.  Seemed like everywhere I went shopping for vintage items.  What struck me most was the glass eyes and the fact that they had human hair wigs.  And I LOVE the little tongue sticking out of the mouth feature.

The fact that they were so cute didn’t hurt either.  🙂  So I started collecting them.  Here’s the latest addition to my collection.  (Of course he is dressed in purple so I HAD to have him 🙂 )








They are usually carved out of wood and painted with  a shining white “skin” lacquer called gofun made from ground oystershell and glue.  Some have squeakers in their back – it’s actually a hole in the doll with a squeaker that you push down to make a noise.  Quite a number of them have a reddish tint to their hair.  Not sure why that it.

They can be found in all sizes from very small 4″ to large size.  I saw a pair once at a convention and they were about 16″ seated.  (I knew I should have bought them because I haven’t seen any that size again.)  They are a really simple doll compared to say a BJD that’s produced today in Japan, but nonetheless very collectible.

These dolls are still being made today and some of the new collectible ichimatsu dolls are really works of art.  There is even a facebook page for the doll.

New Ichimatsu doll selling for $1,250

So next time you are at a flea market or antique store, be sure to look for these cute vintage dolls.  I predict that the vintage dolls will be a hot collectible in the future.

next week:  Dolls are made from what??  🙂

Thanks for reading and have a great week!



3 responses to “What is an Ichimatsu doll?

  1. Hi Nancy, I’ve been searching for some time about these dolls and need a little help in finding out what they are worth? I have three dolls man, women and baby doll the baby doesn’t make the crying noise anymore. As for the over condition of the dolls they are in great shape for the age they are they were kept in a glass case for as long as I can remember. They have all thier orignal clothing and stands as well. I see under the clothes the paper is in japanese and they have a stamp in japanese as well I just don’t know what it means. I got these dolls from my mom and she got them from her mom. I’m guessing it was around the mid 50’s when my grandma got them from her kids as a gift. I’m looking into selling them but I’m not sure what to ask for them do you have any idea’s of the best way to start? Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you have

    1. Hi Saybrina
      the best way is to research your dolls – using sites like EBAY – to see what they are currently selling for.
      if you want to send me photos of the dolls, i’ll see if i can help.
      miss nancy
      send email to nshomo@tonnerdoll.com

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