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Do Dolls Have Souls? A Funeral Rite In Japan Is The Essence Of Animism

Buddhist and Shinto temples in Japan hold "ningyo kuyo" (人形供養) funeral rites for unwanted dolls, a spiritual send off to thank dolls for their service and properly put them to rest.

Photo of a Japanese "unwanted doll"

Do discarded dolls have souls?

Heather Greene

KYOTO — Toys don't last forever, and kids grow up. Interests come and go, and a once-beloved plaything winds up in storage, at a yard sale or in the trash. This is the fate of many toys in the U.S. — particularly after the winter holidays — but in Japan, that is not the necessarily the case, at least for dolls.

Throughout the year, temples across Japan hold a "ningyo kuyo" (人形供養), a funeral ritual for unwanted dolls — especially traditional dolls. Held in both Buddhist and Shinto temples alike, the ceremony is a spiritual send off to thank dolls for their service and properly put them to rest.

Shinto and Buddhism are the two dominant religious influences on Japanese culture. Even with a population that is largely religiously unaffiliated today according to the JGSS Research Center at Osaka University of Commerce, these two religions continue to have a powerful spiritual influence on secular culture.

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War In Ukraine, Day 86: Putin Turns Up The Dial In Donbas

Russia may allow over-40s to enlist in military as resources are needed to step up the assault in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldier and his dog on the outskirt of the separatist region of Donetsk

Irene Caselli, Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

Signs are pointing to Russian combat operations accelerating in the southeastern Donbas region, as the invasion in Ukraine nears the three-month mark. The British Ministry of Defence said Friday that more Russian troops are likely to be deployed to Donbas to reinforce operations there once they finish securing the strategic port city of Mariupol, where a growing numbers of Ukrainian soldiers has surrendered this week.

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian students during a virtual address on Thursday that the war is not over yet, and is entering “the final stage (which) is the most difficult, the bloodiest.” He added that it is not time yet for him to tell Ukrainians abroad to return home.

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