KYOTO — Dollhouses have a long history in the West, but in Japan they are mainly the work of hobbyists.
A Kyoto-based firm that makes miniature models for museum displays is now hoping to nurture a domestic dollhouse market and carve out a niche.
Sankei Co. in Ukyo Ward has been mainly resurrecting traditional Japanese architecture in miniature for museums. It hopes to tap this expertise to sell Japanese-style dollhouses to the general public.
Sankei recently produced two trial dollhouses — a thatched-roof farmhouse and a two-story “machiya,” a wooden structure common in Kyoto, often with the dwelling upstairs and possibly a business on street level. Both are on display at the company.
“We have been making various models of Japanese architecture for museums across the country. We now want to expand our business to individuals by offering Japanese dollhouses, making use of our ability to create miniature buildings and accessories,” said Kenji Katsumi, president of the company. “We think our dollhouses will help ease people’s stress in this rapidly changing society.”
The machiya replica includes a summer festival scene of the mid-1950s in Kyoto, with people preparing special meals inside and others enjoying various games and events outside.
Not only the structure of the house but also the furniture and utensils are accurately reproduced in one-twentieth scale.
The thatched-roof dollhouse, on the other hand, depicts a farming day in the fall at the rice harvest.
Both dollhouses are trial runs. The company can create various types at customers’ request, Katsumi said.
“When we create traditional architecture in miniature for museums, such as temples and castles, experts check every single detail to ensure an accurate rendition,” he said. “When we make the dollhouses, we have lengthy discussions with individual customers in order to satisfy their needs.”
Although previous dollhouses have received favorable reviews from the public, the firm has yet to sell any of the new models, owing now doubt to their rather steep price.
The thatched dollhouse, for example, costs about 1.5 million yen.
“It took three to four months to complete the two dollhouses, with about 20 experts working on them. Because great effort and skill are required, I hope people will appreciate the relatively high price,” Katsumi said. “I hope Japanese-style dollhouses will become as popular as those in European countries.”
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