Sunday, November 06, 2011
We've recently acquired a rare and wonderful collection of vintage Miharu Hariko ningyo. These dolls are all for sale at reasonable prices. As this region of Fukushima is close to the site of the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor, the future of this 14th-generation folk craft is uncertain. These vintage examples are a great way to keep the tradition alive in your own collection.
Miharu-machi (town) is located just NW of Koriyama City in central Fukushima Prefecture. They say the town’s name "mi’ (3) "haru" (spring) comes from the fact that the three famous blossoms of spring; plum peach, and cherry, bloom here in profusion. This colorful backdrop, along with a scenic rural setting, and a long craft history, help to provide the inspiration for the papier-mache dolls known as Miharu Ningyo (Miharu Dolls.)
Over 300 years ago, the first ancestor of the Hashimoto family to
then glued and hand painted. Such items were sold to the retinues of samurai and officials that were forced to travel to and from their outposts to the capital in Edo (Tokyo) under the Shogun’s "san kin kotai" (alternating residences) system. Souvenirs to take back to Tokyo were a must along the route. At the peak of the trade’s history in the 1700's some 30 families worked at this craft in Miharu, proding such items as Ebisu, Daikoku, &Daruma dolls. Today, there are about a dozen of the Hashimoto descendants continuing the tradition today at a collective of farm houses and gift shops known as Deko-Yashiki.
Miharu artisans started out with paper because there were no good clay deposits in the area, but today say that paper actually creates a more lively, and expressive figurine than the stiffer, hardened clay. This can especially be seen in the dancing figures. Other standards are Ebisu, Daikoku, & Daruma dolls, as well as masks, and the popular zodiac animals. To meet the annual demand for the zodiac figures, work begins in the summer months and only a limited number of the following year’s animal is made, and released for sale at year’s end. But, loyal customers don’t mind the annual wait. Today’s dolls also use a higher quality hand-made paper of mulberry bark fibers, and are still hand-painted by the Hashimoto family descendants in this centuries old traditional
Individual images above: Mother Nursing Child, Dancing Maiden with Water Buckets, Ebisu as Sumo Wrestler.