This is a stunningly beautiful Hakata ningyo (doll) made by a Hakata ningyo artist. It is not one of the mass produced Hakata dolls. The softness of the colorings and detail in her kimono (in Kyoto Yuzen dye) did not fully come out in the photos. This doll was modeled after oiran, a courtesan from the Edo period, or we may simply call her Genroku bijin (a beautiful woman from Genroku era in Edo). The doll has a Kosode (kimono with small sleeves worn during the Edo period - 17 to mid 19th century) with an obi belt tied in the front. Later on, their obis became more elaborate in the front. Her face appears to be coated with gofun (ground oyster shell). The style of her hair is called “Hyogo mage” which was popular among the courtesans. The label on the box reads "Hakata Ningyo" and the name of the artist or owner. The doll is 14 1/2" tall and the dimensions of the box are 16" x 5 3/8" x 4 1/8".
ABOUT HAKATA NINGYO (DOLLS) AND HAKATA: Hakata is located on the north-west tip of the southern Kyushu Island. It is easy in distance getting to Korea from Hakata, rather than getting to Edo(Tokyo). For this reason, Hakata Bay area was the gateway to and from the western world from earlier times. Trading and culture exchanges through Hakata Bay enriched the area culturally and financially. Hakata was once the wealthiest city in Japan but the area also faced serious threats of invasion from outside countries. Two Mongol invasions lead by Kablai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan) in the late 13th century shook not only Hakata but the whole nation. Imagine the sight of 900 fleets (plus 3500? were supposed to attack together) surrounding the small bay after wiping out several islands on the way. You might say that Japan was never the same since. Combined with on-going internal battles, this lead to the quick declining power of the Kamakura shogun. What was once the wealthiest town in Japan, Hakata experienced the highest mortality rate from starvation (one third of population) from a natural disaster that hit western Japan in 1713.
Hakata was a town of merchants next to the samurai city, Fukuoka. The Japanese developed their own culture with little influence from foreign cultures for 250 years from the 17th to mid 19th century. Clay dolls were made during the period all over Japan; they started out as talisman figures, then souvenir dolls for the pilgrims and festival dolls. At the dawn of the Meiji revolution (mid 1800s) when Japan opened its door to the outside world, the merchants in Hakata grabbed the new opportunity. Clay doll makers in Hakata studied human anatomy (new field) in universities and learned from the top-rated painters (traditional and oil – new) and sculptors at the time. By equipping themselves with new tools and techniques that were flooding into Japan in the mid 1800s, they eventually turned their folk clay dolls into artistic figures.