【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Hakata Dolls (Fukuoka Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Hakata Dolls (Fukuoka Prefecture)~


Hakata doll



【Production area of Hakata doll】

Hakata District, Fukuoka Prefecture



【What is Hakata doll?】

It refers to the unglazed dolls produced in the Hakata district of Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Unglazed dolls are made by molding clay, drying it, firing it at a low temperature of about 850°C, and coloring it with pigments.


While there are many genres, the representative of Hakata dolls is “Bijin-mono”.

It is known that the facial expression changes little by little as the image of beautiful women changes with the times.


In February 1976, it was designated as a traditional craft.



【Features of Hakata doll】

The characteristics of Hakata dolls are often mentioned below.

・ Delicate and rich facial expressions

・Careful and detailed engraving technique

・Amazing curvaceous beauty

・The color is vivid but has a calm atmosphere.


It has also been exhibited at many expositions and exhibitions abroad, such as the 1900 Paris World Exposition.

Each time, it has attracted a great deal of interest, and is now being exported to various countries.

Also, when guests visit from overseas, it is useful as a souvenir.

In this way, it is one of the crafts that not only Fukuoka Prefecture, but also Japan can boast to the world.


Hakata dolls are known to have many genres.

The following are some of the most famous and prominent among them.












・ Hina dolls, etc.



【History of Hakata doll】

The history of Hakata dolls dates back to 1600, the year of the Battle of Sekigahara.

After the battle, Nagamasa Kuroda, the first lord of the Fukuoka Domain, built Fukuoka Castle.

When the castle was built, tile craftsman Soshichi Masaki presents a doll made from the clay used to make the tiles.

This doll is said to be the origin of Hakata dolls.

After that, not only unglazed dolls, but also doll-making skills spread throughout the Hakata area, laying the foundation for the traditional culture of Hakata dolls.


Time passed, and it is said that the prototype of the current Hakata doll was born after 1818.

It is said that it started with the colorful and beautiful unglazed dolls created by Nakanoko Kichibei.


It was a domestic exposition held in 1890 that the name “Hakata doll” came to be known as it is today.

The exposition was held under the initiative of the government to promote domestic industrial development.

It was decided that the doll would be commended for its gracefulness and beauty, and the name “Hakata doll” was written on the certificate of commendation.

This event triggered the birth of the name, which spread throughout Japan.

In addition, it was exhibited at the 1900 Paris World Exposition, which was mentioned earlier, and it became a presence that attracted attention from all over the world.



【Production process of Hakata doll】

①Soil kneading

This is the process of kneading the clay that is the raw material for the doll.

The soil used is collected around Fukuoka.

By kneading, the soil becomes sticky, making it easier to proceed with the next steps.


The soil is first dried and then crushed.

After the crushed soil is mixed with water, it is stirred well to remove impurities such as sand, and elutriation is performed to leave only fine-grained soil.

Finally knead the clay until it is as soft as an earlobe(as an image), and the process is complete.



referring source:Kajiwara Hakata Doll Studio


It is the work of shaping the image of the doll.

Using tools such as spatulas and fingertips, the craftsmen create the overall image of the face, hands and feet.

It is a delicate work that requires craftsmanship, so it takes a long time.

It is not uncommon for it to take several months to complete the prototype.



The completed prototype is disassembled into as many details as possible, and plaster molds are taken one by one.

Hakata dolls are characterized not only by their facial expressions, but also by their delicate details, such as their fingertips.

By disassembling rather than using the original model, the craftsmen will be able to make more accurate and beautiful molds.

Once the plaster is poured and the mold is taken, it is dried thoroughly in the shade for about three days.


④Dough making

Making the dough is the process of pasting clay onto a plaster mold and shaping the entire doll with the pasted clay.


Cut the clay used for pasting into squares of 30 cm in length and width and 1 cm in thickness.

While pressing the cut clay with your fingers, press it firmly against the plaster mold in units of several millimeters.

The clay dissolved in water is called a “dobe”, and the dobe is applied to the clay and adhered.

Once glued, remove it from the plaster mold, finish it so that it looks the same as the original, and then dry it.


The part where the plaster mold was placed becomes hollow, but it is said that this is because the inside and outside of the doll are carefully baked during firing.



Using an electric kettle or a gas kiln, the mold is unglazed at a temperature of about 900 degrees Celsius.

By starting at a low temperature and gradually increasing the temperature, the paint will absorb better.



referring source:Kajiwara Hakata Doll Studio


This is the work of coloring the unglazed doll.

The pigment used for coloring is called “gofun”, and is made from shells such as oysters and scallops.

In general, the face, kimono, obi, and pattern are colored in this order.


Depending on the work, “real gold polishing” or “gold leafing” may be applied to give it a luster.



It is a work to add expressions to the colored face and put soul into it.

The main things to do are:

・Lipstick case

・Eye filling

・Eyebrow drawing


This process is only allowed by skilled craftsmen.

This is because it is a very important task that determines the quality of the Hakata doll, as it changes into a doll with various facial expressions depending on the face.

Only a brush is used, and no drafts are done.



The Hakata doll is completed through the process introduced so far.





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