May 14, 2009

Misemono: Meiji-Era Sideshow Pregnancy Dolls


In the late 19th century Meiji Era, a newly reopened Japan rushed to modernize and catch up to the West. One often-overlooked field which Japan had dominated since the 18th century was the creation and presentation to the paying public of unusually realistic, carved wood models of pregnant women and fetuses.

Misemono [mee-seh-mow-no] were traveling sideshow carnivals that presented various scientific and educational findings in an entertaining way. For example: pregnancy dolls with their removable bellies and multiple interchangeable fetuses. Or a set of seven detailed uterus carvings, which depict the various stages of fetal growth. I mean, who wouldn't pay to see that?

19th century pregnant dolls [ via, uh..]

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