Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Japanese "Pregnancy Dolls," 19th Century

Julia Solis just sent me a most fascinating link to a Pink Tentacle blog post detailing a chapter in Japanese popular anatomical display called the "Pregnancy Doll." In the words of the post, which was sourced from a July 2001 issue of Geijutsu Shincho magazine:
In the 18th and 19th centuries, sideshow carnivals known as misemono were a popular form of entertainment for the sophisticated residents of Edo (present-day Tokyo). The sideshows featured a myriad of educational and entertaining attractions designed to evoke a sense of wonder and satisfy a deep curiosity for the mysteries of life. One popular attraction was the pregnant doll. Although it is commonly believed that these dolls were created primarily to teach midwives how to deliver babies, evidence suggests they were also used for entertainment purposes. For example, records from 1864 describe a popular show in Tokyo’s Asakusa entertainment district that educated audiences about the human body. The show featured a pregnant doll whose abdomen could be opened to reveal fetal models depicting the various stages of prenatal development...
This is especially fascinating as I have read quite a bit about Western examples of popular anatomical display (see some examples here, here and here) but had been unaware of an Eastern equivalent. Most fascinating! If any readers have any more information on this topic or further links to suggest, I would love to hear about it.

You can read the full article and see larger copies of these images (highly suggested!) on Pink Tentacle by clicking here. For more on the fascinating topic of misemono, click here. Thanks so much, Julia, for sending this along!

All images from the original post. Top to bottom, per original post: 19th-century obstetric training doll - Wada Museum; “Light-skinned” pregnant doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum; “Dark-skinned” pregnant doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum; Baby doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum; Fetus model set (circa 1877) - Toyota Collection.


Agneta Hammar said...

oh, i want to have that japanese pregnant doll, its lovely!

Jordi Guzman said...

I know a blog that might interest you:

Anonymous said...

Hey.. they even put stretch marks on the stomach :) Accurate to the last eh?

George said...

I think young people nowdays must work on keeping their own culture by preserving national values.
This could be achieved by keeping these values in a museum.
The Politechnics University Museum site was realized by a few students beeing published temporarily here:
It represents a science museum in where we can find varius hystorical technical models.
For improovments of the site wich is just a scale model you can write us a message on the
Contact Form.
Thanks for your support.