Hakata Dolls|Traditional Crafts|Fukuoka & Culture|ACROS Fukuoka

Fukuoka & Culture

Traditional Crafts

Hakata DollsDolls

Hakata dolls are renowned throughout Japan and overseas as outstanding examples of Japanese aesthetic beauty. The history of these dolls dates back to approximately 800 years ago when people in the area already maintained a unique custom of cherishing unglazed ceramic dolls. In 1600, the first lord of Fukuoka Domain known as Kuroda Nagamasa, assembled craftsmen who created the foundations for today's Hakata dolls. In the 19th century, a succession of master dollmakers created works of such magnificence that word of Hakata dolls soon spread throughout Japan. Examples of Hakata dolls were displayed to much acclaim at the 1890 Exposition Universelle de Paris, after which demand for these dolls increased overseas. Today, this illustrious tradition continues to thrive through the works of nearly 100 Hakata dollmakers.

Doll motifs

Hakata dolls feature a range of motifs, including beautiful ladies, kabuki and noh actors, children and seasonal festivals. Works portraying beautiful women are particularly popular. Featuring realistic expressions, gently curving lines on their skin and kimonos, and vibrant colors, these dolls are in a class of their own.

Life of a doll - painting and adding features

The production of Hakata dolls follows a series of procedures. The first step is kneading the clay, which is used to create a clay model based on an existing design. This is then used to make a plaster mold that is filled with clay and fired in the kiln. This is followed by the important stages of painting the doll and adding features. For this, the skin sections of the doll that have been fired at around 900 °C, are given a preliminary coating with powdered seashell and aqueous solution to make them lustrous and white. The dollmaker in the workshop then paints details onto the doll utilizing the doll's rough unglazed surfaces. One of the most important stages is known as “menso”, where the dollmaker uses a brush to render the doll's face. This entails the use of an ultra-fine brush to paint the mouth, eyes and eyebrows. This is a painstaking task that breathes new life into Hakata dolls.