Japan is full of national treasures, from beautiful nature spots to old architecture, but one of the most interesting classes of national treasures is the living kind. Masters of their crafts, these national treasures often represent the heights of Japanese arts — including doll making! But we’re not talking about G.I. Joe figures or Barbie dolls, we’re talking about works of art that look less like toys and more like real people frozen in time.

Goyo Hirata was exactly that kind of artist, and once you see some of his creations, you’ll agree that he was definitely deserving of the status of Living National Treasure. Though Hirata passed away in 1981, his work is still celebrated today and no less amazing.

Born in 1903, Tsuneo Hirata started studying doll-making at 14 under his father, whose name he took at the age of 24. Several decades later, at the age of 55, Goyo was deemed a National Living Treasure, with good reason we would say. His creations, despite being wooden dolls, look totally lifelike.

▼ It’s almost weirder that she’s not moving.


Some of Goyo’s creations can be found around the world thanks partly to the friendship dolls he crafted. However, many of his pieces can also be found in museums, such as the one pictured below, which is kept at the Yokohama Doll Museum, but sadly is not on display.

Obviously, not everything you see is made of wood — the hair and clothes were added — but Goyo is famous for carefully carving each and every wrinkle of skin on the dolls, and his attention to detail was nothing short of amazing.


▼ This piece can be found at the National Museum of Modern art.

▼ You can almost hear it breathing…which is really creepy on the Internet!

With 3-D modeling and printing, plus the rise of virtual reality, we suppose it’s not so difficult to create lifelike replicas of people anymore. But we have to say that Goyo may have been one of the first to create works of art that weren’t just lifelike but also somehow managed not to fall into the uncanny valley.

Update: As some helpful readers have pointed out, we messed up and included a photo of a real person in an earlier version of the article. Goyo was pretty talented, but apparently not quite as talented as we thought. Thanks to everyone who pointed out our mistake!

Sources: Yokohama Doll MuseumJapaaan, Tobira no Mukou, TV Tokyo, Wikipedia
Top images: Twitter/@mop443, Twitter/@nobu_sat (edited by RocketNews24)