Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
These dolls appeared in 1810, when Tsugaru Yasuchika, the 9th lord of the Hirosaki domain, invited a potter Takaya Kinzo from the Chikuzen region of Kyushu. A kiln was then prepared for him at Shitakawara, where he produced daily necessities. As it snowed heavily in winter, potters could not make pottery during this time. Then Kinzo created earthenware dolls when he had no work to do, hence the beginning of the earthenware dolls in Shitakawara.
In the making of this doll, red earth and sand are mixed together to form clay, which is put into a plaster to shape the doll. It is then fired at high temperature for several hours, and then painted to create the finished design. Shitakawara dolls features three colors of yellow, purple and red, which are applied on the pure white base color. The pigeon whistles and the dolls of zodiac figurines, warriors and Manekineko (Lucky Cats) are famous. All are made in the traditional hand-making techniques that have been handed down for a long time.
Hakota dolls are traditional papier-mache dolls with a history of 300 years. They are made in Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture. Such a limbless cylindrical type of papier-mache doll, similar to a kokeshi doll, is rare in this country, and it is made only in Kurayoshi in the Sannin area.
Hakota doll-making started sometime between 1781 and 1789 (Tenmei period). A peddlar from Bingo (today's Hiroshima Prefecture), whose name was Bingoya Jihei, created the first Hakota doll. He made it because he was moved by the naivety of the girls he met in this area.
Until the early Showa period, these dolls were called 'Ha-ko-san', and were a familiar toy for little girls. Also, these dolls were made as bringers of good luck; a prayer for a child to grow up free from injury and illness.
You can make and decorate your own Hakota doll at Bingoya (the 6th), which continues to this day. What will your 'Ha-ko-san' look like?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yukio Minamikawa is an Edo Oshie Hagoita craftsman, and was born in 1929 in Sumida-ku, Tokyo.
In 1945, Minamikawa became involved in the production of 'hagoita' (battledores) under the instruction of his father. After that, he began making not only hagoita, but decorative items for himself to be shown at annual fairs held in May and March.
Every year, Minamikawa makes hagoita with a portrait of the symbolic person of each period. He makes hagoita for the Asakusa Hagoita Fair, held from 17th to 19th December, as well as dolls for May and March seasonal festivals.
He says: 'For the customers who are looking forward to my work, I will continue to make joyful hagoitas.'
Minamikawa is a director of the Tokyo Tori-no-Ichi Hagoita Association, a deputy director of the Tokyo Hina-doll Industry Association, and a president of Ayame-kai. In 1997, he was designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman of Katsushika-ku.