Beauty in Motion, Beauty in Stillness: Japanese Dolls with Kyūkyōka Kanesaka Lecture

Presented by JICC, Embassy of Japan

As part of the visiting exhibition, Ningyō: Art and Beauty of Japanese Dolls, the Japan Information & Culture Center is proud to welcome Professor Kirk Kanesaka, under his doll artisan’s name of Kyūkyōka Kanesaka, for a lecture-demonstration on the art of making Japanese dolls.

Japanese dolls can be used in one of two ways: for decoration or performance. In this lecture, Kanesaka-sensei will explain the ways dolls are used as objet, and ways that they can be deployed to convey the range of human experience in Japanese puppet theater. He is uniquely suited to do so, as Kanesaka-sensei is both a trained dollmaker and a renowned performer of traditional Japanese dance and kabuki. Kanesaka-sensei will give his expert insights into the craftsmanship of the dolls on display in the JICC gallery, taking the audience through the carefully selected materials, centuries-old techniques, and painstaking detail work that goes into making one.

Finally, Kanesaka-sensei will give us a live demonstration of the dollmaking process, deepening our understanding of the goshō dolls on display in the gallery and introducing a type of doll not included in the traveling exhibition, the kimekomi doll. Several of Kanesaka-sensei’s exquisite kimekomi dolls will be on display in the JICC’s Tokonoma front window display for a limited time during the exhibition’s run.


Kyūkyōka Kanesaka (金坂 久京香) began his kimekomi doll training under the tutelage of his mother, Kyūka Kanesaka (金坂 久香), the official representative to the United States of the Tokyo-based Kyūgetsu Doll Academy (久月人形学院). In 1997, Kyūkyōka’s original kimekomi mix-media work, “Benkei, the Warrior”, won the top prize in the Disneyland Creativity Challenge in the category of 3-Dimensional Art, where he is the only Asian-American to win the grand prize in this category. During his ten-plus years residing in Japan, Kyūkyōka became the pupil of renowned Imperial Court Dolls (goshō ningyō) artist Maeda Yutaka (前田 豊), expanding his love for Japanese dolls beyond the kimekomi technique.

In commemoration of his ongoing commitment and artistic endeavors in the field of Japanese dolls, he was awarded his master artist title (gagō 雅号) of “Kyūkyōka” from the headmaster of the Kyūgetsu Doll Academy, Yokoyama Kyūkichirō (七代目横山 久吉郎). The “kyū” (久) is the kanji representing the doll academy (久月), “kyō” (京) for his mastery in the Imperial Court Dolls (a tradition starting in Kyoto), and for his artistic skills in kabuki, and “ka” (香) from his mother’s artist name, Kyūka (久香).

Currently, Kyūkyōka, along with Kyūka, teaches kimekomi doll making in pursuit of bridging the cultures of Japan and the United States, while ensuring this art form will be handed down to the next generation. In addition, he works on his own original pieces that often represent his cultural hybrid of being a Nisei, or second generation Japanese-American. As Kirk Kanesaka he is an Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at George Mason University, as Bandō Hirohichirō he is a Japanese classical dance instructor, and as Nakamura Gankyō he is the first non-Japanese to become a kabuki actor.

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