Japanese Hakata Dolls are famous for their delicate, white skins covered with colorful paint and depicting various life scenes of people, including Kabuki characters and religious figures. Some, such as Japanese carp (Koi) and helmet (Kabuto) are made as gifts for Children’s Gala day, and some, such as lovely woman standing, are admired as, literally, dolls.
They are grouped into some categories such as the Beauty, the Kabuki, the Noh, the Lives of People, the Celebrity, and the Kid.
Basically, Japanese Hakata Dolls are unglazed pottery dolls formed by molding. But very neatly curved to achieve the reality of details. And for the whiteness of their surface, conventionally, powdered calcium carbonate (Gofun) is used to cover them after the figures are baked and curved.
For coloring, Gofun is also used as the tradition, but modern Japanese Hakata dolls are often colored by chemical paint so that the price to be decreased. Now Japanese Hakata dolls gain a large popularity.
The origin of Japanese Hakata Dolls is unclear, but is said that beautiful dolls presented by one skillful craftsman, who learned pottery from making decorative kawara (Japanese ceiling), to Kuroda Nagamasa when he built Fukuoka castle in the early 17th century is the beginning.
In the late 19th century, residents in Hakata-gion town started to produce same kind of dolls for children and women, and the production is inherited to current artisans in Fukuoka city, northern Kyushu.
In 1900, Japanese Hakata dolls were exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. The dolls were figures of people from all over the world, and drew a lot of attention.
Japanese Hakata Doll was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1976.