Thursday, March 24, 2011

Doll fads of 1960

Note: It took me far too long, but I've updated this post from what originally appeared in 2011 and removed an offensive, racist image.

I was flipping through the 1961 Compton Yearbook1 (doesn't everyone, in their free time?) and came across the interesting entry for "Toys." Here's an excerpt:
"The one toy that was probably the most popular in the world in 1960 appeared during the summer in Japan. It was a little black inflated vinyl dakkochan ('embraceable') doll. Manufactured first as a baby's plaything, the odd little doll soon became a craze with teen-agers and housewives. The toys soon appeared in the United States where they are called Winkie dolls."

An article from the August 29, 1960, issue of Time headlined "Dakkochan Delirium" offers some background and insights on the problematic dolls. It was probably also the source material for the Compton Yearbook entry. Some excerpts:
  • "In the hottest craze to hit Japan since the Hula Hoop, Tokyo department stores were filled with scrambling, stumbling, shoving teen-agers fighting to spend 180 yen (50¢) for a squeaking, winking, black-skinned dakkochan ('embraceable') doll."
  • "With over 300,000 dakkochans sold in the past two months, the odd little doll intended for toddlers now embraces Japanese teenagers' arms and handbags, housewives' broomhandles, children's strollers. It wriggles on the bodies of strip-teasers in burlesque houses, clings nonchalantly to girls clinging to their boyfriends on speeding motorcycles."
  • "The dakkochan is the brainchild of Yoshihiro Suda, 27, planning chief for Japan's toymaking Tsukudaya Co."2
  • "Japanese intellectuals, who can be pretty crazy themselves, have been quick to discover social significance in the dakkochan's black skin. Citing the growing popularity of Negro jazz. Artist Setsu Nagasawa argues that 'a Negro culture wave seems to be sweeping Japanese youth.' Novelist Tensei Kawano, who has featured Negroes in four books, asserts: 'We of the younger generation are outcasts from politics and society. In a way we are like Negroes, who have a long record of oppression and misunderstanding, and we feel akin to them.'"

To be clear: The dakkochans were racist, Golliwogg-like characters. Sentiments about them had correctly changed a quarter-century after their sizzling summer of 1960. According to Wikipedia, the company "eventually replaced it with a fantastical character called '21st Century Colorful Dakko-Chan', which bears enough similarity to connote the original symbol, while divesting the traits which brought criticism."

Now, changing gears, the 1961 Compton Yearbook "Toys" entry also included an interesting photo, which is shown below. The caption reads: "BEATNIK DOLLS. These unusual dolls, called "sweetniks," are shown with their creator, Yugoslavia's Lada Draskovic, in Rome."

We'll make that this week's mystery. Beatnik dolls? Sweetniks? Lada Draskovic? Do your best digging and report back in the comments. I'd love to know more.

UPDATE: As the years went by, I indeed learned more about Lada Draskovic.

1. "A Summary and Interpretation of The Year's Events to Supplement Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia."
2. I think the name of the company might have actually been Takara. The Wikipedia page for that company matches up well with other details.


  1. I have one of the Sweetnik dolls from Italy. I have been trying to research and find more information on them, but this blog is the only place I've found any reference to them at all, other than a PDF someone has that is a scanned image of a newspaper page with the same photo you have here. I'm really trying hard to find out more about these dolls and their creator. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. Gosh, thanks for your blog! This is a memory from childhood, now I know what to call it. Hanging beside it was a rubber shrunken head, hanging from the basement light fixture in my uncle's room--I was fascinated by both.

  3. this was also used a a famous Chocolate French brand during the 60's called MI-CHO-KO