Mino-cho is located in Mitoyo city, Kagawa prefecture, and it is in this small town area that hariko tigers (a type of paper-mache) are made.
The making of hariko tigers began in Japan after the worship of the “tiger king” was conveyed from China.
Named after the bravery of the tiger, the dolls have since ancient times been used in Japan as decorations for Boy’s Day celebrations (May 5th) and for the Hassaku festival (August 1st) to express good wishes and to pray for children’s’ vigorous growth.
There used to be three hariko tiger makers in Mitoyo city, but due to old age and other reasons, there is currently only one active maker.
We talked with Ms. Tai who is one of Kagawa prefecture’s traditional craftspeople, as well as the representative of Tai Mingei (‘Tai Folk Crafts’).
Hariko tigers started to become popular in Kagawa prefecture during the last years of the Edo period. Nio-cho, the town area next to Mino-cho prospered greatly as a port town with goods being shipped out in the Osaka direction. The tradition for making hariko tigers spread in western Kagawa prefecture via Nio port.
Tai Mingei that Ms. Tai represents has been making hariko tigers since the first years of Meiji, and with the 5th generation craftsman, they have a history of around 150 years. You can see their works at roadside stations and souvenir shops within the prefecture.
This time, we had a special opportunity to see how the dolls are made.
These are the wooden molds for making each of the hariko tiger parts. Having been used for a long time, they have all become blackened, which catches you a bit by surprise!
The wooden molds are pasted with Japanese paper and then dried.
After drying, the Japanese paper is cut and peeled off, and then the respective parts are glued together with nikawa (cow skin) glue. Nikawa glue has been used as an adhesive since ancient times.
Next, the parts are painted white using gobun, a colorant made from shells crushed into powder form.
After painting the parts white, patterns are applied using other colorants in other colors.
The shape and color of the patterns differ according to the maker, which is why no two tigers are the same.
The facial expressions change according to the position of the eyes and the whiskers.
After adjusting the overall balance, the tiger is finished.
In addition, Tai Mingei visitors can also try decorating tigers themselves!
Check the homepage for details.
Kagawa Prefecture Traditional Handicrafts Tai Mingei
Homepage: http://www.taimingei.com (Japanese)
Address: 426 Shimotakase, Mino-cho, Mitoyo city, Kagawa prefecture
Business hours: 9AM-5PM (Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays / Ask about the decorating experience in advance.)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Seitaro Miki
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