RARE Japan Wooden Automata Automaton Kobe Toy Kobi Doll

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  • Item Category: Ethnic, Folk & Native American Art
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Jan 06,2008
  • Channel: Online Auction
RARE Japan Wooden Automata Automaton Kobe Toy Kobi Doll

IMPORTANT NOTES

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DETAILS OF ITEM

Please double click the arrow to view this toy in action.

This piece measures 4.25"x 4.25" x 2". As you turn the knob on the side of the piece, the man who is holding a pair of white paddles begins to juggle a red ball from left to right as he moves his head from side to side while his mouth opens and closes. This is a wooden mechanical toy called Kobe Toy.

Kobe toys are wooden mechanical dolls. They are also called "Kobe Dolls" and the original production began after the opening of the Kobe port in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan in 1868 as a high-class expensive souvenir and only foreigners who came to Kobe with luxurious ships could afford to purchase them.

It is believed that the movements and design of the faces of Kobe toys were originally created by the influence of the Bunraku puppet dolls. Awaji Island off of Kobe port has a long history of Bunraku doll production. The early Kobe toys produced during the Meiji period (1868-1912) were made of boxwood and they were left without any finish. These earlier dolls were called the "Obake....monster" Ningyo (doll) from the comical grotesque appearances.

Many early Kobe toys began portraying strange creatures due to the popularity of the book called the Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain) by Ueda Akinari first appeared in richly illustrated woodblock edition in 1776. The explosive popularity of his weird and bizarre supernatural tales in the late Meiji period influenced the design of these dolls. The familiar blackened dolls appeared in the early Showa era (1926-1988) and the name of these dolls were known as the Kobe Dolls by that time.

Because the movements of most Kobe dolls tend to be up and down motions, it is a little unusual to have a sideways movement like this particular toy. T is a branded mark at the bottom of the piece that reads "Kobe Doll, Folk Toy Kobe Ningyo." From the style and the logo of the piece, it may have been designed and made by the folk toyshop called the Kobe Center in Kobe City during the 1950's. The condition is very good and this is a very rare design.

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A FEW IMPORTANT NOTES:

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