Samurai And Dolls

Dolls are creepy. That is fact. It took the genius of the Pixar crew – and millions of dollars – to create a movie featuring a doll that didn’t leave me with daymares.

It’s because they look real, but not. Like Joan Rivers. It’s a phenomenon known as 不気味の谷現象 (bukimi no tani gensho), or uncanny valley (Wikipedia is a much bigger time-suck than Facebook ever can be).

So this weekend, we did the only sensible thing and visited a temple for Doll Thanksgiving Day, an event billed as “Saying Farewell to Dolls with Gratitude.” Yep.

Parents bring their unwanted dolls to Meiji Shrine once a year, where Shinto priests will give them a proper farewell, and then incinerate them.

Here’s the general idea. The doll you own, through the years, is infused with a soul. You can’t just throw it away. You need to treat it with respect because, you know, it’s possessed.

Parents – emptying out their closets – gingerly handed over the dolls of their grown children. The priests were somber and respectful, cradling the dolls until they placed them along with the others, piled high at the foot of shrine, waiting to “return to the state of mere physical entities.” There was a haunting beauty to the whole thing.

Intense, right?

Except then you see something like this.

Gah! It’s clear now why they are incinerating these things. It’s not to give them a proper farewell. It’s so you can be assured that porcelain baby Satan won’t be clawing at your window on a howling windy night. Burn in hell, Raggedy Ann!

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