Plastic fantastic: Japan's doll industry booming

japanese dolls

The ceremony is called "," or a funeral, and commemorates sending the unit to the factory for dismantling.

"She was glowing with love from her owner," says Yoshio Nakamura, 63, one of several employees of doll manufacturer Orient Industry who attended the event. Nakamura's intense affection is characteristic of doll lovers in Japan (often called "dollars" but preferring the term ""), whose ranks are at least 20,000 strong and growing. Even as sex dolls draw criticism and disappear from Tokyo's backstreets, benign sellers running the gamut from collectible to huggable, from love dolls to porcelain pieces, are doing brisk business as the image of dolls and their users steadily improves with positive media exposure.

According to Takatsuki Yasushi's "From Dutch Wives to Love Dolls," a rudimentary "azumagata ningyo" appeared in Ryugoku's Yotsumeya in 1626 and fast became part of the establishment.

A string of movies in the 1960s and manga in the '70s, including Reiji Matsumoto's "Sex Droid, Ishinomori Shotaro's Sexadoll" and Osamu Tezuka's "Yakeppachi no Maria," cemented dolls in the popular consciousness.

japanese dolls

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