Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Hakata Dolls

Location: Fukuoka City and the vicinity, Fukuoka Pref.

 Number of companies: 89 

Number of workers: 635

 Events: Annual Exhibition of Hakata Dolls in Tokyo in April.



Pottery Figures with Distinctive Colors 

Hakata dolls are the best known craft items from Fukuoka Prefecture, which lies in the north of the island of Kyushu. The origin of this local specialty goes back to around 1608, when Fukuoka Castle was built. Soshichi Masaki, one of the artisans engaged in making rooftiles for the castle, made pottery dolls as a hobby, and presented a archetype Hakata doll to the lord of the castle. Then, at the beginning of the 19th century a doll maker who was a family friend of the descendants of Soshichi Masaki, laid the foundations of the present-day craft of Hakata doll making. 

Toward the end of the 19th century the craft blossomed from making folk toys to making decorative dolls intended to please the eye. Hakata dolls were exhibited in the Paris Exposition of 1900 where the elegant appearance of the dolls was much appreciated by the visitors. Since then the dolls have gained an international reputation and export trade is flourishing . 

The dolls are made from clay found near Fukuoka City. Clay is carved and sculptured to make an original doll. The original doll is molded in plaster and clay is put into the plaster cast to make the same ones as the original doll. The dolls are removed, dried, fired unglazed and then painted for final finishing. One striking characteristic of the dolls is the uniquely smooth transparent feeling of the white skin. Since a single artisan carries out the whole process from carving and sculpturing to final finishing, each doll reflects the individual creativity of its maker, thus producing such a high level of artistry and a diverse range of works. In a way that mass production could never match, each carefully hand-crafted doll is endowed with its own life. Also, this process allows friendly, personal service whereby a customer can request a doll with a kimono pattern that represents their own wearing, for example. This is one of the reasons for the enduring popularity of Hakata dolls. 

Photo: Hakata Doll (Fukuoka Prefecture).

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited.

Related Links:


Web Japan