Techniques developed in Kyoto hundreds of years ago make Pikachu as beautiful as he is adorable.
This Friday is the release date for Pokémon Sword and Shield, and while the release of a new game in the series is always something to get excited about, this time it’s especially exciting. Sword and Shield is not only the first mainline Pokémon game to appear on the Switch, it’s the first to be made for on a top-of-the-line Nintendo console, as opposed to second-tier, portable-only handheld hardware.
But at the same time that Pokémon is taking a old step into the future, it’s also reaching back into the past. No, not back to Pokémon Red and Green’s release on the black-and-white Game Boy in 1996. Farther. All the way back to the 1700s and the creation of Japan’s first kimekomi ningyo dolls.
Kimekomi dolls originated in Kyoto, where a craftsman at the city’s Kamigamo Shrine dressed the figures in exquisite embroidered cloth, mirroring the aristocratic fashions of the Kyoto court nobles. Today, that legacy is carried on by Mataro, a doll maker with a workshop in Tokyo’s Ueno district that’s been in business since the eighth year of Japan’s Taisho era, or 1919 by Western reckoning. The century-old company has just revealed its newest piece: the Edo Kimekomi Ningyo Pikachu!
Rather than rely on 3-D modeling, CAD programs, or any other high-tech crutches, Mataro’s designers started by intensely studying pre-existing Pikachu artwork, in order to better understand just what makes him so cute. They then applied their finely honed skills to crafting the adorable Pocket Monster in an elegant floral pattern that wouldn’t be at all out of place on a classic kimono.
Pikachu comes adorned with braided cords in red and white, the customary colors of good fortune and prosperity in Japan, and the package also includes a stand, gold-colored folding screen, and wooden placard proudly announcing “Edo Kimekomi Ningyo-Pikachu-Mataro Ningyo.”
Mataro says it chose Pikachu as its latest muse because as an internationally beloved character, he’s also become a modern symbol of Japanese culture, similar to Hatsune Miku, who got her own Mataro doll, in the hina ningyo style, last year.
The Edo Kimekomi Ningyo Pikachu stands 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) tall, and Mataro says it hopes that its charming but sophisticated aura will encourage adults to have it on permanent display in their homes or offices. Priced at 13,200 yen (US$122), this mix of traditional and modern Japanese design can be ordered here through Mataro’s online store.