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Some are manufactured as a local craft, to be purchased by pilgrims as a souvenir of a temple visit or some other trip.
There may be a continuity in the making of the dogū, humanoid figures, by the ancient Jōmon culture in Japan (8000-200 BC) and in the Haniwa funerary figures of the subsequent Kofun culture (around 300-600 AD).
Girls played with dolls and doll houses; women made protective dolls for their children or grandchildren; dolls were used in religious ceremonies, taking on the sins of a person whom they had touched.
Hōko, though not explicitly mentioned in The Tale of Genji, were soft-bodied dolls given to young women of age and especially to pregnant women to protect both mother and unborn child.
The competitive trade was eventually regulated by government, meaning that doll makers could be arrested or banished for breaking laws on materials and height.
It was during the Edo period that most of the traditional dolls developed.
Dolls have been a part of Japanese Culture for many years, and the phenomenon of collecting them is still practiced.They introduced a systematic approach to collecting ningyo in an effort to preserve and document the various forms of ningyo.Shimizu, an artist and calligrapher, put his artistic ability to use by creating an illustrated catalog of his own collection of 440 ningyo dolls.The catalog was published in 1891, under the title Unai no Tomo.Nishizawa, a banker, gathered a significant collection on hina-ningyo.