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  • 2009.108.1 Kintaro Doll

Kodomo no Hi Did you know?

What is it?
Kintaro Doll
What is it made of?
Where is it from?
When was it made?
mid 20th century
Object ID

This ceramic male warrior doll depicts the folk hero Kintaro, the Golden Boy. He is characteristically chubby, and is painted in skin tones with white fingers and toenails. His long, black synthetic hair is topped with a black ceramic hat, held on by white nylon rope. Kintaro is positioned in a warrior stance and is holding a ceramic axe by the wooden handle with both hands; his left arm is outstretched to the side toward the head of the axe. He is wearing a heavily embroidered coat in orange, blue, white, and gold. The doll is attached to a wooden base painted black and would have been used during a Kodomo no Hi (Boys' Day/Children's Day) celebration.

Kintaro (or as Kintoki), the "Golden Boy," is a child of superhuman strength from Japanese folklore. Raised by a mountain hag on Mt. Ashigara, Kintaro is said to have befriended the animals of the region to vanquish his enemies. He is loosely based on a Heian period (794-1185) historical figure, Sakata Kintoki, who was a retainer for Minamoto no Yorimitsu and a well-known warrior. Kintaro is a popular figure in No and kabuki theater, and Kintaro dolls are popular decorations for Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day; formerly Tango no Sekku, Boys' Day), as they represent the desire for boys to become equally brave and strong. Kintaro is frequently depicted holding his axe, wearing his familiar apron, and sometimes accompanied by a tame bear or wrestling a giant carp.

On Kodomo no Hi, families raise a carp-shaped flag, called a koinobori, for each boy or child in the family. Koinobori flags are chosen because when flown in the breeze, they look as if they are swimming upstream, alluding to a Chinese legend that holds that when a carp swims upstream it becomes a dragon. Families may also display samurai dolls and other figures in the home, such as a Kintaro (Golden Boy) doll, typically depicted riding on a giant carp and wearing a kabuto military helmet. Traditional foods on Kodomo no Hi include mochi rice cakes wrapped in Kashiwa (oak) leaves and chimaki (sweet rice paste wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf). 


Gift of Ms. Noma, 1996.
2009.108.1 Kintaro Doll