Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dollhouse / miniatures - extra Japan post number four

I had done a little research online before we travelled but couldn't find much about the Japanese miniatures scene apart from a maker of food items in Tokyo and an annual Tokyo show (dates didn't coincide with our trip).

But I was on the lookout all the time in souvenir shops and craft shops for items that might work in my dollshouses. In particular, there is my Italian partwork to make a Japanese Ryokan inn that I bought on eBay last year, still waiting to be made.  It's in 1/16th scale but I was hopeful of finding some items that might fit into it. So I took lots of photos whenever we went into traditional buildings which I hope will help me in creating the interiors.

I was disappointed to find very little in the way of miniatures in the places we visited.  We went to a couple of toy departments but there was no dollshouse section or doll furniture. One toy shop in Kyoto did have an aisle of plastic mini items to furnish little vignettes, but the scale was all over the place. I did buy one card of kitchen appliances which I hope will fit my Ryokan scale.

Some of the doll shops or shops selling altars had no-scale simple furniture designed for use by the dolls/gods.  A couple of souvenir shops had crudely made wallhung room scenes in frames at astronomical prices.  Some of the souvenir shops had miniature sushi platters or food trays, as display items or fridge magnets, but again no particular scale and fairly crude.

We did see some superb scale models in various museums or at sightseeing sites.  In particular, the Edo-Tokyo museum in Tokyo is highly recommended, both for their interesting collections and recreated buildings, and for the extensive and detailed models of historical Japanese scenes and buildings. Here are a few shots of the Edo-Tokyo models.

DH found a sheet of stickers at Daiso (a 100-yen shop) of traditional Japanese woodblock prints which could be used at 1/12th or 1/16th. I also found a miniature rubber Buddha figurine at Tokyu Hands, a tiny ceramic Lucky Cat at a tea shop and a bigger Lucky Cat at a souvenir shop.

On one of our last days, DH spotted an adorable origami miniature doll display, like the dolls they display on Girls Day, which he bought for my birthday.

So I was quite astonished to spot a poster for a dollshouse museum when we were in Hakone-Machi, in the mountains.  The generic map made it seem like it was in the nearby resort of Moto-Hakone, but after conferring with the bus station information assistant (I took a picture of the poster and showed it to him on my camera), we were directed to take a bus up to a remote hamlet.  The museum was directly opposite the bus stop.  It's located in a strange set of linked greenhouses which I assume was formerly some kind of botanic garden. I couldn't help thinking that it is a most unsuitable environment for antique dollshouses due to all the light streaming in and probably a lack of temperature/humidity control.  Most of the labels are in Japanese but in English it explains that they bought several items from the Mott's Miniatures collection when it closed down and also from the sale of the Vivien Greene collection.

According to the poster, the museum opened in July 2015 but they seem to be still unpacking things. There was a large group of antique dollshouses in the last room which haven't been unpacked at all yet, huddled together with their contents in tupperwares.  I recognised items in display cabinets from English makers so I think someone may have made visits to the UK shows. And there around a half dozen thatched cottages from Little Homes of England, obviously someone's favourites.  The collection is a good size and it took us probably 45 minutes to go slowly around the linked greenhouses. There is a small shop area in the reception building with a few  hugely expensive imported minis (nothing Japanese), and a little cafe area.

This pond/water feature was randomly in one building, presumably left over from the days as a botanical garden centre.

 The houses still to be unpacked.

Although mainly of Western items, there were a few Japanese items. These
are some tiny 144th scale Japanese shops.

And this display below was by a Japanese maker, I liked
the unusual structure of the base.

This below is also by a Japanese maker, we weren't sure if it
is meant to be Shaker or if it is a Japanese carpentry shop (because
the worktable is so low). 

So if you visit the resort of Hakone and you are into minis, definitely make the effort to go see this museum. I don't think it would be worth a special trip from Tokyo, but it's relatively easy to get to by bus if you are in Hakone anyway doing the 'loop' around the area. The stop is on the way back to Hakone Yumoto (the main base for the area) from MotoHakone and I think there were at least two buses an hour.

I would really like to start building my Japanese Ryokan kit now, but I know I need to finish all my outstanding dollshouse projects before my club comes to visit in July which is my deadline. At least I have amassed a good photo reference library of interiors and interior items like kitchen items and baskets which I'm sure will be quite useful.

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