Many traditional crafts that utilize manual dexterity still survive in Hakata. One facility where all of these crafts can be seen is the Hakata Traditional Craft Center. It is located near the Kusuda Shinto shrine, where Hakata’s guardian deity is enshrined. The center offers leaflets and videos in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean, as well as a café for relaxation during your visit.
The two largest exhibits at the center are of the Hakata-ori textiles and the Hakata ningyo, or dolls. The original techniques for Hakata-ori were brought from China about 770 years ago, but improvements have been added since then. It is particularly valued for making kimono belts, or obi. The silk material is very sturdy and retains its shape well. The technique is also used for dresses and handbags.
The Hakata ningyo date from the 17th century when the Fukuoka Castle was built. Their origin is said to be in the unglazed dolls created by the craftsman who were summoned to work on the castle. They are made in several forms, including women, children, and samurai, and their bright colors and smooth ceramic surface make them very attractive. They were often exhibited overseas during the Meiji period, including at the Paris Exposition, and became well known as representative of traditional Japanese crafts.
Eight different traditional crafts are on display at the center, including Hakata spinning tops, Hakata hariko (papier-mâché), and Hakata magemono (wooden objects). Young craftsmen also often come to study because there are many items and exhibits that can’t be seen anywhere else, including the works of renowned craftsman of the past and valuable historical materials.
Nearby is the Hakatamachiya Furusatokan, where craftsmen present demonstrations of Hakata-ori every day. There are also presentations on alternating days of craftsmen making Hakata tops, Hakata hariko, and Hakata magemono. Why not visit both for twice the fun?
Originally published online for Fukuoka Now magazine (Nov. 2011)