Welcome to the first instalment of the DOLLS IN JAPAN series! Here, I’ll be taking regular deep dives into love doll culture in Japan. Everyone in the doll community (and doubtless many outsiders and curious folk besides) acknowledges the crucial role that Japanese society has had in not only creating premium love dolls, but also in advancing the culture surrounding them. Many of these stories are inaccessible to people unfamiliar with the Japanese language or culture – so in this series, we hope to open the curtain on what’s happening with dolls in Japan.

High-end Japanese doll makers Orient Industry held a widely publicised 40th anniversary convention in 2017 which caught the attention of not only national press but worldwide media keen to see the latest in Japanese doll tech. As one of the older Japanese doll makers, Orient Industry have played a key role there in advancing love dolls technologically – and culturally – beyond the seedier expectations of times past. Over 10,000 people flocked to Ueno district in Tokyo to visit the showroom and gain an insight into the latest in the world of dolls.

Two things stand out: one is that according to Orient Industry, over 60% of the attendees were female. The other is that from interviews and surveys conducted with the crowds, this largely female crowd were attending in large part not necessarily as customers, but often because they think that love dolls are beautiful and they wanted to come and admire them.

And many of those women reported a longing to be a doll. That’s right. Aesthetically, or literally, become a love doll!

The majority female crowd might surprise people unfamiliar with the world of dolls beyond the stereotypes, but I imagine that to an Australian audience, the idea that a sizeable group of people actually want to be a love doll is even more shocking.

To understand this better it’s important to remember how instrumental Japan has been in advancing, industrialising and embracing love dolls as a cultural phenomenon. In fact, Orient Industry invented the term ‘love doll’ in 1998. Their intention in doing so was to try and destigmatise dolls and to elevate their status beyond the seedier stereotypes of times past. (Long-term readers of this blog will know that I want to do the same thing, hence why I also preference the use of the ‘love doll’ label!) They, and other doll makers, have had much success in Japan in this regard.

There’s a strong cultural tendency towards exploring non-human companionship in Japan’s society, with partner or companion games, apps and gadgets growing in popularity over decades of technological advancement. There is a best-selling holographic house companion called Gatebox that can be synced up to house appliances to effectively help manage one’s home while also providing emotional and romantic support. Japan is culturally geared towards accepting dolls, and has often historically led the way in their development.

So. They accept dolls a lot more readily and broadly than, say, the West. Therefore Japanese people are ready to accept how beautiful they are! (Makes sense, because they are beautiful.)

How do you become a doll?

Well, for one, you might go for a professional photo shoot dressed up as one! Freelance photographer Leiya Arata offers custom photos shoots in which her team applies specialised make-up to make the client look like a classy love doll – before filming the process of a special boxing & unboxing ceremony. If you’re going to look like a love doll, after all, you’d likely want to live like one too… So Arata wraps her clients in plastic like a real love doll, boxes them up in shipping packaging and then unboxes them on camera! Mid-photo shoot, clients are asked not to talk or move (although don’t worry – they are given air to breathe!). Arata shoots them in various love doll poses in which her team helps manipulate the body of the client to pose just like a real doll. Check out a Leiya Arata shoot here: 

These ‘human love doll’ shoots are quite popular, and Arata advises that around half of all her customers are women. That’s right – this means the other half are men. We’ve covered the growing international market for male sex dolls previously on this blog, and it’s safe to say that wherever there’s a growing consumer base for a doll there’s also a growing group of people fascinated with the aesthetic of dolls. That includes men and women. We look forward to increasingly diverse human love doll shoots in the future!

In considering the desire to adopt a doll aesthetic, we can see parallels around Western nations in the established appetite to become like a ‘Barbie’, as in the case of Valeria Lukyanova (and many others besides). These people are often mired in scorn from entertainment media and are considered as being adjacent to ‘extreme plastic surgery’ in terms of their tabloid coverage, placed next to the Jocelyn Wildensteins of the world. But while defying regular social conventions about what constitutes ‘normal’ in achieving a state of beauty is likely to always attract scorn, it is nice to see that the ‘human love doll’ scene in Japan seems more to be about celebrating the essential state of being a doll – and less about obtaining plastic surgery to emulate one! Finnish model Amanda Ahola almost lost her life in the very expensive process of obtaining surgeries along the way to becoming a real life doll.

Here at Sex Doll Australia, we welcome any newcomers to our growing community – even human love dolls! It only points to a future in which dolls are further accepted by the outside world, and that’s good for doll lovers like us.

In next instalment of DOLLS IN JAPAN, we’ll be covering what happens to a doll at the end of its life cycle in Japan. There’s some touching – and surprising – ceremonies and services to cater to grieving doll owners! Join me then!

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