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Doll makers association protests to USJ for using Japanese dolls in their horror attraction

28 Comments

The Japan Doll Makers Association, an organization with over 400 doll makers as members, has sent a protest letter to Osaka's Universal Studios Japan (USJ), claiming that one of its attractions is ruining the image of traditional Japanese dolls by using them in the theme park's haunted house attraction.

The group also sent a protest letter to Awashima Shrine in Wakayama Prefecture for leasing the dolls to USJ, Fuji TV reported. The association claims the use of the dolls in a horror attraction will obstruct the business of the doll makers and sellers.

The horror attraction in question is USJ's "Tatari ~ the curse of living dolls ~", which opened on Sept 10. Over 100 dolls are presented as cursed living dolls.

The association demanded the theme park cancel any similar attractions in the future, saying that "Japanese dolls are recognized art pieces. The attraction falsely and negatively presents them as horror objects, which puts traditional Japanese culture at risk."

USJ has released a statement in which it says the objection has no legal basis and that the attraction will be open as planned until November 6.

The association has in the past protested against a television show that featured the dolls with hair that kept growing as if they were alive. It says this latest case must not be disregarded considering the level of influence that theme parks have towards people.

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28 Comments
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If anything this'll probably lead to an increase in the sales of these kind of dolls especially around Halloween.

The sales of these kind of dolls have been going down for years/decades. They should be thanking USJ not protesting.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

"...which puts traditional Japanese culture at risk.”

That's going a bit far, I'd say. But funny how these people justify their protest. Consumers should have no right to appropriate the meaning of products for themselves. Things must be used as they are supposed to be. As tradition demands.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Consume what I say, how I say? Simple Omotenashi.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I kinda understand the sentiments of the doll makers, its not just about the money guys. They are making these dolls for a different purpose and their goal is not to scare people. Once the normal people see that these dolls are being used to scare people then that will be the image that will stick to the people's heads and that is never the goal of the makers. Their art is being used inappropately and they need a quality and image to keep, they are artist and I understand them as corporate people don't care about these things and only think of raking money.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

These dolls are not made for this horror attraction. USJ is using the old dolls from Awashima Shrine which people have owned once and dedicated to for many years.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I would like to lodge a protest with the Doll Association, for they are ruining the traditional image of sticks and mud with their actions.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

To me... they should take it as somewhat flattering. USJ is not about to display just any old dolls and if they do they need to be of the highest quality. I wonder if any company out there is buying these dolls and modifying them to look scary and then reselling them? Wouldn't that be art too.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

it all started with 'the ring'. but then again, i would say it started with other things even before that, that might have distorded and perverted the good things of their culture.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

There is an inherent creepiness about lifelike dolls (and robots/androids) that has been known about for decades. It was given a name - "the uncanny valley". I dunno, perhaps it doesn't exist in Japan so much, given the endless promotion of the latest android, but the concept was investigated by a Japanese scientist in the early 70s. So, I think it is hard for this association to escape the creepy aspect of what they make.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/why-we-are-afraid-of-creepy-dolls-and-robots-uncanny-valley-effect-a6728161.html

6 ( +7 / -1 )

How does this "put traditional culture at risk"? It's a few dolls that were thrown away by their owners (or their families) and that have been collecting dust in a shrine not too many people visit. USJ has borrowed them and put a fun spin on them. If they did what they did without the Shrine having any idea, and if there is irreperable damage (they wanted them back the way they were but can't get them that way) then it's a problem, but not a problem of culture. USJ exists as a place for people to go have fun -- it is Japan adopting culture. It's creepy FUN! Let it be -- all these doll-makers have done is just increased interest and ensured that USJ will draw more crowds to see them, and they will be used in the future.

And I didn't know much about the doll donation thing to Shrines before this (knew a little). So if anything, people are learning more about the culture from it.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The art of beautifully crafting dolls has existed in many cultures for millennia. Each culture attaches different sentiments to these creations - but it is without question, whether lifelike or mock resemblances - 3D images of humans (dolls) have an unnerving element about them. Even in Japan, while admiring the skill, many people feel uncomfortable with such, esp larger dolls. Dolls have an inherent other-worldly aspect to them.

That said, the use of the dolls, which form a part of a light hearted, albeit scary Halloween themed attraction, are surely being used in a "fun" manner, and not as a deviant deconstruction of Japanese culture.

If one wants to find deformation of traditional Japanese culture, you don't need to go to a theme park - just take a walk - but who's complaining?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

In 1816 the German writer E.T.A Hoffman wrote a story called The Sandman which featured an 'automaton' named Olympia. The German philosopher Schelling wrote about the uncanny in relation to Homer's poetry in 1835. Freud wrote about the uncanny in a 1919 essay, specifically focusing on Hoffman's story. There's a long tradition in Europe of both the uncanny and it's connection to dolls, robots or other life-like figures. It's very interesting especially in light of the current media-driven hype over androids and robots in Japan.

The attraction falsely and negatively presents them as horror objects, which puts traditional Japanese culture at risk.

A revealing comment that says more about the Doll Makers Association than their products. Many people find Victorian dolls exceptionally creepy but that hasn't damaged their popularity or prevented vintage ones changing hands for astonishing prices.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

That's actually pretty hilarious. I feel for the doll makers, but TBH those dolls are fairly creepy

0 ( +0 / -0 )

so its alright for Japanese film makers to use them in their movies, but if a foreign company uses them its cultural insensitivity!?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Echoing the sentiments of Moonraker and dcog9065, these dolls are just scary. I don`t think that USJ is making them scary by associating them in a horror attraction or whatever. I think that it is the other way around. The dolls are scary, so USJ is using them in a horror attraction.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan has a strong scary supernatural tradition, especially in the hot summer months when people enjoy going cold as they listen to the stories, part of which long tradtion includes good old horror for some people at the sight of a Japanese doll seated in the corner of a dark tatami room.

USJ has probably gone OTT to milk this, but entry to their House of Horror is not compulsory.

Dolls which have been handed over to a shrine may be particularly scary for some, as the owners have wanted to get rid of them without inducing a supernatural curse upon them for doing so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Heck...my kids were scared of those dolls LONG before USJ decided to display them in a haunted house.

While I can understand the doll makers' discomfort, do they really have a say in how people display items once purchased? (assuming USJ purchased them from said doll makers.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm genuinely surprised! The idea of haunted dolls or dolls connected in some way with the supernatural world have been widely used in Japanese pop culture - movies, tv shows, exhibitions of some kind...And now this! Maybe they are annoyed that USJ went cheap by borrowing dolls rather than having their own props made ( and paid to the Association for that, respectively).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Stop making such creepy looking dolls and USJ won't use them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My spidey sense is telling me this protest is only because USJ is doing this, hell I have seen scary dolls used LOTS of times in Japan, quite prominent actually!

Having said that I understand a bit, but if their culture wrt to these dolls is THAT WEAK, the USJ thing isn't going to make a difference! And like others have said maybe it could HELP!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They sound like a bunch of clowns, who also complain about similar things these days.

Anyway, I have seen a few local サスペンス ドラーマー which have been pretty spooky and grisly with local dolls.

I wonder which Japanese make of TV featured in The Ring.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Doll Makers Association, you couldn't make this kind of stuff up.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Are there not Doll based yokai or other Japanese ghost stories featuring doll ghosts?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"The attraction falsely and negatively presents them as horror objects, which puts traditional Japanese culture at risk.”

Respectfully, Japanese society itself made the decision to carve out a firm horror niche for these dolls years ago -- Comics, film, animation, video games -- Unquestionably exquisite craftsmanship aside, Japan decided long ago these dolls were creepy, and not Universal Studios.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tempest in a tea set...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can see their point. The same way that clowns have become a negative image these inoffensive dolls could suddenly be seen as evil in the eyes of the masses. I certainly have a phobia of ventriloquist dummies thanks to the way they were represented in films and TV when I was a young boy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is all about money, the association is unhappy that usj is making money while they arent

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Get over it. I don't see circus clowns moaning.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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