【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Iwatsuki Doll (Saitama Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Iwatsuki Doll (Saitama Prefecture)~


Iwatsuki doll



Production area of Iwatsuki doll

Iwatsuki Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture



【What is Iwatsuki doll?】

A doll made in Iwatsuki Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture (former Iwatsuki City).


Iwatsuki was a region where various paulownia products were made, including paulownia chests.

In addition, the area was blessed with good quality water that went well with the gofun (white pigment made from shells such as oysters and scallops) used to paint the dolls, creating an environment suitable for making dolls.


Various types of dolls are made, such as Hina dolls, May dolls, Kabuki dolls, and Ichimatsu dolls.

Known as the “town of dolls” for its production volume, which is the largest in Japan, there are events where you can feel the history and culture.


In March 2007, it was designated as a traditional craft.



【Features of Iwatsuki doll】

There are mainly three points that can be cited as characteristics.

・Slightly larger head and eyes compared to other dolls

・Plump and round face

・A large, brightly colored costume


The doll’s skin is painted with gofun, giving it a very smooth and beautiful finish.

In addition, the hair is made of soft raw silk similar to human hair, so it looks just like the real thing.

Planting and decoration are carefully done one by one by craftsmen.



【History of Iwatsuki doll】

The production of Iwatsuki dolls began in the Edo period.


The impetus was the rebuilding of Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which began in 1636.

At that time, Tokugawa Iemitsu, the shogun, summoned excellent craftsmen from all over Japan.

As Iwatsuki was the first post town from Edo to Nikko, many craftsmen stayed there.

Among them, there were people who were good at making dolls, and the fact that they gradually spread their skills became the foundation of the town of dolls.

It may be thanks to this environment that the technique called “Touso head”, which is still used today, was born in the Edo period.


In the Edo period, Hina-ichi, a market where dolls and furnishings for Hinamatsuri were sold, began.

By that time, Iwatsuki had become the Kanto region’s number one producer of hina dolls.


Thanks to the policies of the Iwatsuki clan and the advancement of technology, it developed into a representative industry.

The existence of a large market called Edo nearby may also be one of the factors behind the prosperity of Iwatsuki dolls.



【Production process of Iwatsuki doll】

①Making a head

referring source:Iwatsuki Doll Cooperative


It is said that “a doll’s face determines whether it is good or bad.”

Head making is an important and skillful process.


Toso, a type of clay, is used to make the head.

Toso is a mixture of paulownia powder and seifu paste (made by boiling and dissolving starch extracted from wheat flour).


First, put the toso into the mold and use the dried one as the base.

When making a doll with costumes, the first step is to put special parts, such as glass, into the eyes.

(Depending on the type of doll, the eyes may be drawn in with a brush.)


The next step after the eyes is the face.

Apply gofun mixed with glue and water to the dried biscuit.

By applying multiple coats, the craftsmen create smooth skin.

Kuchikiri is performed in between, and the unevenness of the face such as the nose and lips is expressed by “okiage”.

After polishing to give the skin a glossy look, the next step is to create a facial expression.


To create facial expressions, the craftsmen use a “Menso-fude” with a very thin and sharp tip.

The doll’s eyebrows and eyelashes are delicately drawn, and blush and lipstick are added to the cheeks.

By inserting the teeth and tongue into the mouth, the craftsmen create a lively expression.

Finally, the hair is planted and tied up to complete the head.


②Hands and feet making

The base of the hands and feet is also made of die-cut paulownia wood.

After several coats of gofun and glue are applied and allowed to dry, fine details are shaped using a small knife.

After polishing to bring out the luster, the hands and feet are complete.

Depending on the type of doll, the toenails may be colored.


③Body making

referring source:Iwatsuki Doll Cooperative


A bundle of straw that has been bound and hardened is pasted with Japanese paper to create a base.

Once fixed to make the work easier, the craftsmen perform ‘erimaki’, which adjusts the shape of the collar.


The next step is to attach the hands and feet.

Since the hands and feet are often bent, the bent wire is covered with straw.


The last thing to do is dress up.

All the costumes are made in the same way as people wear, and sometimes luxurious fabrics such as Nishijin textiles are used.

Washi paper is pasted on the back of the costume so that it does not fall apart after dressing.


After putting on everything, fold the arms to create the pose of the doll, and the torso is complete.


④Making props

referring source:Iwatsuki Doll Cooperative


For a dankazari hina doll, it needs more than 20 props in total.

Although it is made by a prop maker, the painting on the cypress fan, for example, is carefully hand-painted one by one.



Assemble the head, torso, and props that have been made so far.

If there are any irregularities in the costume or the gods, they are arranged and the Iwatsuki doll is completed.





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