The name Musha Ningyo is composed of the words musha 武 者, warrior, and Ningyo 人形, doll. These dolls mainly address boys and are exhibited typically on fifth of May, the day of the child kodomo no hi 子 供 の 日. The Warriors are modeled representing historical figures, legends and other motives from the past that are reported in assoication with warriors from the past. The fifth of May has an additional name: MNay being the month of the horse, the fifth day is also called tango no sekku 端午 の 節 句 , a festivity in honor of the white horse of the emperor. It is, therefore, not surprising that many of the dolls are shown sitting on a white horse.
There are several traditions which are connected to this day. During the 12th and 13th centuries, paper hats representing Samurai helmets were decorated with Iris. Shobu 菖蒲, Japanese for Iris, a homonym of the word competition , Shobu 勝負, is probably the reason for this. Fifth of May started to be celebrated as Shobu no sekku 菖蒲 の 節 句 and in the wake of this tradition helmets were continuoulsy developped to become even more close to originals. In the 18th and 19th centuries, iris decoration were added to toy weapons and used by boys playing combat games. Imitations concerned mostly the battles of the 12th century. The famous stories of the family clans Minamoto 源 and Taira 平 were reproduced for decades in books, song and art and, of course, were extremely popular with boys. Although this rather dangerous games are rarely observed today, almost real-looking miniature helmets are still exhibited, representing Samurai values and can be traced back to the ancient paper helmets mentioned above. Since the 17th century, whole armors and real weapons, mostly with banners representing the symbols of the particular house of war. Later, dolls that represented particular warriors and rulers followed.
Nowadays, musha Ningyo often are also called gogatsu Ningyo 五月 人形 (May Dolls) and continue to be purchased frequently and displayed. In addition to the doll and helmets, the modern displays also show armor, weapons, a white horse (representative of the emperor) or a tiger. The warriors look like gentle beings and more like boys than feared warriors. They are also a popular export product since the Samurai figures are often sought after collection objects. Especially those dolls that are based on the original musha Ningyo were constructed with great attention to details and usually have a rich historical background which makes them even more attractive for collectors.
There are several standard figures and characters, some of which are present in this collection. Among others, Jinmu Tenno, Shōki, Benkei and mounted white horses are often shown. All of these are part of the present collection. Other famous figures are Yoshitsune, Empress Jingu, Kintarō, Momotaro, Urashima Tarō and the 47 Ronin.