Morikami Museum Presents “Musha-Ningyō: Avatars of the Samurai Spirit” on April 27

Long before Barbie became de rigueur, dolls were utilized around the world for a variety of societal purposes, ranging from banishing spirits to breaking cultural barriers.

For example, it was customary in Japan to display dolls during Tango no Sekku or Boy’s Day Festival to impede disease. After the start of the Edo Period (1603-1868) and the rise of the warrior class, the Japanese developed the popular practice of displaying musha-ningyō, or warrior dolls. Symbolizing human virtues like courage, loyalty, and self-sacrifice; these dolls were modeled after historical and legendary figures adorned in miniature armor and helmets. Shortly after WWII, the festival was rededicated to both genders and became a national holiday known as Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s Day.

Beginning April 27 through October 6, 2024, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens will present Musha-Ningyō: Avatars of the Samurai Spirit. Curated by Alan Scott Pate, the new exhibition features more than 50 musha-ningyō sourced from private collections. These meticulously outfitted effigies were designed by leading doll artists from the 19th and 20th centuries and take their inspiration from Japan’s powerful martial past.

Musha-ningyō dolls on display will include Empress Jingū (a shaman and interpreter of dreams); Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Japan’s second “Great Unifier”); Kato Kiyomasa (nicknamed “The Devil General”); Minamoto Yorimasu (an archer and monster-slayer); and Kintarō and Momotarō (two young men with superhuman strength).

Museum members will have the opportunity to meet Alan Scott Pate on Friday, April 26 at 1 p.m. During the Musha-Ningyō: Avatars of the Samurai Spirit Speaker Series, journey into the fascinating world of the samurai and discover its embodiment in Japanese doll culture. The cost is free with paid museum admission.


Art dealer, museum curator, and academic Alan Scott Pate has established himself as the foremost authority of antique ningyō outside of Japan. Having authored numerous books, articles, and videos on the subject, he also guest-curate’s exhibitions across the U.S. and Japan and frequently lectures about the wonderment and historical significance of Japanese dolls to audiences around the world.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is located at 4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach. For more information, call (561) 495-0233 or visit