NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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秋山信子(人間国宝) Akiyama Nobuko Nobuko Akiyama (Living National Treasure)

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Nobuko Akiyama was born in 1928. Her real name is Nobuko Imai, while Nobuko Akiyama is her working name. She was designated a Living National Treasure for her 'costume dolls'.

In 1956, she studied under Obayashi Sono, a dollmaker. At this time, she absorbed the ways to work with traditional materials and techniques of dollmaking such as 'tuso' (a mixture of clay and paulownia), 'gluing with paper' and 'graining'. The costumes for her dolls are made with cloth from traditional late-Edo and early-Showa kimonos. In addition, the posture of her dolls can be freely adjusted.

The sophistication of the dolls and their costumes could only be possible because of the traditional materials she uses and her highly-trained skills. The character of the dollmaker appears in the dolls they make. Akiyama's dolls somehow have a 'warmth' as well as style.
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とやま土人形 Toyama-tuchiningyo Toyama Clay Dolls

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The craft of clay doll-making (tsuchi ningyo) in Toyama is a traditional handicraft from the Edo period. The round shape and lovable, naïve expressions on the doll faces are simply adorable.

The history of the Toyama clay dolls dates back some 150 years to the period 1848-54. It is believed that the clay dolls originated when Maeda Toshiyasu, the 10th Han (feudal lord) of Toyama invited Hirose Hidenobu, a potter from Nagoya prefecture, to work for him. Using a kiln he had made for the Chitose Palace, Hidenobu created a kind of pottery--the forerunner of Chitose-yaki (Chitose ware), and the Tenhin Gagyuu as presents for the Maeda clan.

By the end of the Edo Period, the style and shape of the dolls had developed and became more elaborate. This form later became a lucky charm and a children's toy that would be cherished by the public.

At that time, there were many stores at the foot of the castle that were making clay dolls. Only one of them is still in business today: Nobuhide San of the house of Watanabe, who inherited the techniques of clay doll-making from the house of Hirose.

In order to keep the doll-making tradition alive and vibrant, Toyama city itself is making efforts to train people to learn the craft at special associations.
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