How A Japanese Sex Doll Museum Changed Culture

Because of the incredible craft that goes into most modern sex dolls to make them as lifelike and unique as possible, most dolls provide a story as well as companionship, a muse or anything else a person needs from them.

In one case, a collection of dolls provided a 49-year-old man a way to reach out into the wider world, express his artistic talents and push back against the cruel undercurrent of a culture that often circulates false narratives to crush cities and destroy people’s lives.

Yashio Hihokan

Based in the otherwise relatively nondescript commuter town of Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, Yashio Hihoken is an art project and museum by Yoshitaka Hyodo that has taken over 20 years to come to fruition, spanning the modern history of love dolls.

It started, according to Mr Hyodo, with a chance finding of a mannequin in a dumpster, which ignited a passion to be surrounded by dolls and express his fascination for cyborgs, artificial life and other synthetic beings and sensual objects.

Eventually, his house became filled with them, leading Mr Hyodo to create what was initially a personal exhibition of different types of dolls that he had collected over the years either by buying them, receiving them as gifts or from other people who due to changes in their life no longer had a place for them.

The museum is somewhat unusual, reflecting Mr Hyodo’s somewhat unusual life, from an encounter with a yakuza organised crime group at the age of just 14 and several health challenges from a pituitary gland tumour and a host of heart issues that stopped him from exploring and travelling.

He opened the home to the public in 2015, which slowly grew into a cult hit not only to people interested in the less-travelled parts of Tokyo but also internationally, where people made specific journeys just to see Mr Hyodo’s unique vision.

The home was inspired somewhat by the design of the 1982 film Blade Runner, a film all about transhumanism and the humanity of the artificial, as well as the intermingling between different cultures, the past and the future.

Mr Hyodo has also taken some of the dolls to ruins and caves to take pictures, with these photographs being exhibited around the world.

The Great Love Doll Party

For Mr Hyodo, the museum took on a much greater purpose in 2020, due to events in his personal and professional life that mirrored a shocking tragedy.

On 23rd May 2020, 22-year-old professional wrestler and celebrity Hana Kimura took her own life after becoming the target of abuse on social media after alleged manipulation on the reality television show Terrace House.

This, for Mr Hyodo, reflected false narratives that had been circulated around him personally, his museum and the town of Yashio, as the cruel force that such misinformation could manifest with.

This led to The Great Love Doll Party, a project designed to counter a gossip website called Tokyo Deep Annai that he believed was creating this negative public perception.

Ultimately, his esoteric vision won out, and a documentary charting his life was released in cinemas around Japan.

This highlights the power of love dolls to battle isolation not only through providing companionship but also through bringing people together. 

September 12, 2023


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