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Calling UNESCO: Japan’s love dolls as ‘world-class art’

Spa! Dec. 30 - Jan. 6
Spa! Dec. 30 – Jan. 6

Last year, UNESCO deemed Mt. Fuji and Japan’s washoku cuisine as intangible cultural properties. Traditional (washi) paper was added to the list this year.

Now, says Spa! (Dec. 30 – Jan. 6), the agency might want to consider some of Japan’s less traditional elements — for example, the love doll.

When it comes to crafting a man’s ideal body line of the female form, it is hard to top the selection of molded silicone from manufacturer Orient Industries, says the magazine.

“Above all, the love dolls made by Orient Industries are world-class Japanese art,” says Yoko Taguchi, a representative of the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo’s Ginza district, which has held exhibitions featuring the creations on four occasions.

From the outset, the goal of Orient Industries was satisfying the sexual desire of its customers. In 1977, the company issued its debut, Hohoemi, a limbless vinyl inflatable.

However, that mandate has changed — today’s models are no longer mere blow-ups. From head to toe, each doll in the current lineup closely resembles a fully functioning woman. But the products, once known as “Dutch Wives,” are not too real. According to an Orient Industries brochure, the firm seeks “to express something that is ‘between’ imaginary and real” with its products.

Taguchi further explains: “Instead of reproducing the human body precisely, the user is left with an intentional gap upon which he can project his image of the ideal female.”

Orient Industries
A love doll from Orient Industries

Spa! believes that yakuza movies from studio Toei, canned coffee, sex products (including masturbation aids from Tenga), heated toilets, adult videos, instant noodles and danchi apartment complexes are also worthy of commendation by UNESCO.

The case for love dolls as “intangible” properties could be gaining traction. During the first show Vanilla Gallery in 2007, roughly 70 percent of the visitors were male. However, attendance at this year’s event included more women than men.

Further, customers of Orient Industries treat their products as people. From providing accompaniment on drives to being the subject of photographs with high-end camera equipment, the dolls can become a member of the family.

“After three months, a change in the facial expression will become evident,” says Taguchi. “The doll will now be ‘his wife.'”

Source: “Oresuko seikaiisan,” Spa! (Dec. 30 – Jan. 6, pages 153-157)