We are now ready to fast forward to the venue that houses a massive collection of the large (70 cm) ball-jointed dolls that are made in Kyoto and purchased by fan groups all over the world. In actuality, they are strictly created for the adult lovers of the doll. Children are not allowed in the museum, as one of the guards explained. They would simply make too much of a fracas, damage the collections and disturb the worshipful ambiance. The Super Dollfie dolls are not overtly sexualized fetish objects, but they cater to adult fantasies of constructing and owning a family. They are called “our angels” or “our daughters”, but they actually look like tiny replicas of young adults. These miniature humans have immaculately groomed appearances, while cultivating a melancholic and refined artsy or hipster personality. People travel to Kyoto to buy these “daughters” of sophistication or they have the option of playing with their already purchased Super Dollfie families within the museum. When the new dolls are ready to be picked up, they are offered to customers in a specific kind of birth ritual. The museum has a statue of the Madonna surrounded by Angels, and she is considered the mother of these families.

The museum has a designated play room furnished with high-class chairs for the dolls to sit in and engage in their own kind of conversations. To play mostly means to endlessly dress and position the doll in order to take photographs for private photo albums or galleries on the web. These dolls are expensive, costing about USD1,000 a piece. They consist of different components and body parts such as glass eyeballs, eyelids, eyelashes, hair wigs, hairpieces, facial molds in different skin colors, and hands and feet in different shapes. All of these components are purchased through a “Full Choice System”—as customers can individually pick and choose, assemble and disassemble the existence of the doll. The doll parts can be either purchased in a store or ordered online through the Volks web site. Doll owners can browse endlessly through these collections until their eye settles on the perfect miniature object: a dark purple eyeball, a leather belt or mini skirt, striped leg warmers in bright colors, an expensive designer purse or flamboyant sunglasses, sneakers or high-heel boots. There are real gems to be found here and one is hard placed to avoid the trap of diving into these tiny replica collections. The Super Dollfie web pages are some of the most beautiful and tantalizing displays that I have ever seen, as are their counterparts in the material world of doll stores and assembly labs. The store in Tenshi-no-Sato Kachu-an carries all the necessary elements of the perfect department store. It looks like it was a designed by a happy bouncy child who went out of his/her mind. It has shelves and racks full of neatly packaged doll parts—tiny shoes, socks, blouses, breasts, hair, shirts, glasses, stockings, lingerie, briefcases, suitcases, wardrobes, chairs, couches, and so on. It feels strangely liberating to shop for a doll as one easily understands that it is a totally useless activity. Indeed, these tiny products refuse to serve the adult world as either useful tools or as super deluxe commodities. These products are simply made for fake little humans; the question being, do they come alive through the interplay with caring consumers and do they have a (real) life of their own?

Doll owners and their fetish daughters socialize with each other on an international basis, expressing an unconditional attachment to their fantasy families, and their love for the brand and the Volks company. Their spiritual center is in Japan where they can show faith and devotion to their particular obsession, but the commodity has also produced a wide range of shadow industries and knock-off doll models in the greater East Asian region and beyond. I first spotted these dolls when visiting the mini-malls in the basement of Ginza Plaza, Hong Kong. The doll fad having spread to China and Hong Kong, fans have opened tiny stores and doll houses to manage and sell collections of ball-jointed dolls and doll clothes or accessories.

Most of these small businesses operate primarily through web sites or online auctions houses. Other doll merchants have stacked their wares in tiny stores where they are able to fit in only about four to five customers at any one time. These shops are artfully designed as their private collections and spill over into a retail service. Some of them offer cheap doll clothes that are manufactured in China, while others sell delicately hand-made outfits knitted together by their moms and grandmoms, things like hats, scarves and mittens for a wintertime outing. Even though one would hardly be able wear this type of winter clothing in the extreme heat and humidity of Hong Kong, our dolls may desire to wear these beautiful outfits when going out on a fantastic brisk autumn walk.