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Karakuri Doll
It is obvious that karakuri dolls have had a significant influence on Japanese technology. Automata had never existed until then. The ancestors of modern robots are karakuri dolls from the Edo period.
So, why did people start making dolls in the first place?
In the Old Testament, it is written that God created human beings in his own image. In the same way, people also created dolls that looked like themselves.
When people first started handling dolls, they added joints to the legs and arms of a wooden doll called deku. They tried to know God's will by using it, and the doll was an object of worship in their ceremony.


Controlling the doll's movements...this was the beginning of karakuri.
In the Muromachi period, their ceremony took root as Dashi karakuri (see the page of Mysterious Karakuri)
The karakuri technique started showing progress in the next era, the Edo period.
Dashi karakuri developed into the dolls of Hida and Owari (Aichi prefecture) which captivated people by a gorgeous performance they could do on their own.

There was an ingenious clockmaker, Konoe Takeda, who contributed to this achievement. His works were greatly appreciated in the Imperial Court. He developed new karakuri dolls inspired by ordinary experiences, such as watching children playing with sand, and brought them to the court.
Beginning with a play using karakuri dolls in Dohtonbori, Osaka , he also influenced the Japanese puppet drama ningyo-johruri. This form of puppet drama is still loved by many people in Japan. In this way, karakuri became familiar not only to the nobility, but also to the common people.

The technology of "Edo-karakuri dolls" began to flourish during this period. Putting together the mechanical clock technology brought from the West during the Muromachi period with the techinique of dashi karakuri, the "Cha-hakobi doll" (Tea serving doll in English) was born. This doll was the first to use an automated system, and it gave a gorgeous performance using clockwork.

This system is still amazing to us even in the modern times, so people in those days must have been impressed with the tricks. Karakuri dolls stole people's hearts, and gained the reputation of living dolls.

The technology to animate dolls was one of the major accomplishment of the Edo period, and it was a great step forward in our technological development.

Hisashige Tanaka (also known as "Karakuri Giemon"), who was the original founder of Toshiba Corporation, also contributed to karakuri development. He was known as a genius of mechanical wonders. Some of his famous inventions are a doll that shoots an arrow, the "10,000 Year Clock", a pocket candle stand, and "The Inexhaustible Lamp". He even worked on the development of a steam boat.

Thanks to those passionate craftsmen, karakuri has been gradually transformed into modern technology. Just like dolls, which were thought to be controlled by the gods, were manipulated by humans and then started moving on their own power, robots today are becoming more and more capable of automatic movement.

The need for energy conservation has become acute in the 21st century. The application of karakuri technology just might play an important role in our lives. It is worthwhile for us to take the opportunity to listen to what karakuri is trying to tell us.



 
       

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