One of Ryukyu's famous toys, the 'hariko', known as the bringer of good luck, is sold at the toy bazaar held on the day of the Yukkanuhi (the fourth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar).
The skills for crafting the hariko were brought here from Japan after the 17th century. The original target for the hariko were children from upper-class families. By the Meiji period, though, the hariko had become a popular and affordable toy for the average child.
Okinawan hariko were influenced by the Ryukyu Kingdom, continental China, and by their own inland cultures. These multiple influences fused in the distinctive shapes and rich colors of the hariko.
Other Ryukyu toys, such as pinwheels made from the leaf of Adan, puppets made from the nut of the Sago palm, and butterfly-shaped kites also show the same subtle charm combined with various influences.
Over the times, plastic and tin toys replaced the popularity of the Ryukyu toys, though each toy still shows expression and tender warmness and is appreciated by many people
Takashiba Deko House is a village in Takashiba, Nishida Town, Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture.
Deko house is a general name for five houses that have kept making Miharu dolls and spinning tops for many generations. The word 'deko' comes from 'deku', another word for a doll.
Takashiba Deko House makes Miharu spinning tops and red cattle dolls (one of Fukushima's symbols), as well as many talismans and good-luck charms like long-nosed goblins, droll fellows and stone-carved shrine dogs.
In the studio of Takashiba Deko House, visitors can observe working craftsmen who have inherited this 300-year-old tradition. Moreover, visitors can try painting, too.
Takashiba Deko House is a small village that preserves Fukushima's doll culture, and is a place that we should continue to preserve.
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.
Miharu papier-mache craft is believed to have originated when Akita Morisue, the 4th lord of the Akita Clan based at Miharu castle, invited a doll-maker from Edo to introduce the art and culture of Edo and Kyoto to his locality.
There is uniqueness and beauty in this simple craft. Between 1688 and 1703, one samurai in the Miharu clan is said to have retired and begun crafting dolls using traditional Japanese paper and a technique known as 'tsutsumi'--a papier-mache doll-making skill from Sendai prefecture. This skill gradually became more refined and today it is practised in Takashiba Dekoya, in the Abuyama mountain district.
Papier-mache models of Tengu, Ebisu, Ooguro, Otafuku, Daruma and Mai-ningyo are made from wet Japanese washi paper, then dried and painted. The figures are engaging and colorful, and embody good fortune, as well as carry a natural earthiness.
Born in Kashima City, Saga Prefecture, in June 1954, Shigeto Suzuta is a dyeing artisan and an official member of the Japan Handicraft Association.
Shigeto learned the art of dyeing from his father, Teruji, who had dedicated himself to the revival of 'nabeshima-calico', which had lost popularity after the Taisho period.
The dyeing style of 'nabeshima-calico' is unique in that it is the only Japanese calico to use wood or paper molds. The fabric produced from this method is very elegant.
Shigeto, preserving the technique revived by his father, evolved a new dyeing style that has received high commendations, such as the NHK President Prize at the 45th Traditional Japanese Handicraft Exhibition.
While dyeing fabric at his studio, Shigeto also makes the 'nogomi doll', created by his father to 'enrich our harsh society'. This doll is a simple clay bell featuring one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. It is very popular as a mascot because it is small and beautifully colored. Some of the animals have been featured on New Year stamps: in 1963 and 2001.
Edo Dress-up Dolls (ishougin ningyo) is a general name for any doll, such as May, March or Ichimatsu dolls, whose costume you can change. These dolls date back to the period of the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi.
Dress-up dolls were originally made in Kyoto, but as Edo culture flourished, many Kyoto techniques came to be practised by Edo artisans. They invented various dolls such as Hina, Satsuki and Ichimatsu dolls, which were the prototype of the Edo dress-up Doll.
A typical doll's body is made from toso, a paste made by mixing paulownia powder with glue; its lively face is layered with white paint; the eyes are glass and the hair is human with silk threads. The costumes can be made from materials such as crepe.
Using these traditional Edo techniques, today's Edo dress-up dolls match beauty and prettiness with a modern sense.