Iwatsuki - The Town of Japanese Dolls

Kanto Culture Traditional art 2020.03.04
One of the districts in Saitama City of Saitama Prefecture, Iwatsuki is a town known for its production of Japanese traditional dolls. The dolls go through five different steps of production, and each step is done by separate masters of doll making.

The Dolls of Iwatsuki

Suruga Dolls【駿河人形:するがにんぎょう】, Kyo Dolls【京人形:きょうにんぎょう】and Hakata Dolls【博多人形:はかたにんぎょう】and many more. There are many different kinds of traditional dolls that are made in Japan.
This time let's take a look at the ones in Iwatsuki district of Saitama city. The traditional Iwatsuki Doll【岩槻人形:いわつきにんぎょう】.
The area has been a town of dolls since the Edo era, and for almost 400 years, the town has kept its tradition of doll making. 
  • These particular dolls are called the Hina Nigyo【雛人形:ひなにんぎょう】, the dolls used in Hinamatsuri on the 3rd of March every year, celebrating and to wish for the daughters to grow healthily.

The Origin of Doll Making in Iwatsuki

During the construction of the Toshogu in Nikko (beginning in 1634), Iwatsuki was one of the towns on the way from the Edo castle to the shrine.
Since many conditions for doll making was satisfied in Iwatsuki, some of the artisans remaind in the town even after the shrine was built. Ever since then, Iwatsuki has developed as a town of doll making.
Some of the traditional techniques used in many other doll making in Japan also developed here.

The Making Process

It takes more than 10 artisans to make a single doll and each artisan takes care of a different process of the doll making and they have their own atelier.
We won't be going through the whole process, but we will take a look at a few.
Ther is so much involved in the process of making a doll. There's the head making, the body, the hands, and arms as well as the feet, little items that go with the dolls are also made by a different artisan, there's even one that puts the eyes into the doll.
Most of these processes are done by hand.
For example, this picture here is the process of embedding the eyeballs inside the face and cutting it open to give it a more realistic structure on the face.
Then there's an artisan that paints the face to give it more colour and a lively look to it.
From the lips to the details of the hair and eyebrows, each one is done by different sized brushes in detail.
Then there is this one here, where the dress is put onto the doll.
Each piece of clothing is also made by hand and stuffed with cotton to give it the volume and curves of a human body.
Finally, there's an artisan that assembles the pieces together and does the final touch to tidy it up.

...and more to come

Good news for you who liked this topic, there is going to be a whole museum opening about the dolls made in Iwatsuki, called the "Iwatsuki Ningyo Museum"【岩槻人形博物館:いわつきにんぎょうはくぶつかん】on the 22nd of February 2020.
Read the official PDF that explains more about the museum.
Now opened.

Currently temporarily closed from the 2nd of March until the 16th of March. ←New
Check out their official website here for further details!

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