Akimitsu Inatomi, Hakata Doll Maker
He is known as the foremost Hakata doll maker, and has received numerous awards including the Prime Minister’s Prize three times, and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Prize. Of course, for a doll maker, the basics and techniques are imperative. However, that alone is not enough, he says. “With dolls, fantasy is essential. Expression is born from fantasy and imagination.” says Inatomi. Before producing a doll, he reads literature and composes his own story. He draws from a wide variety of works, from classics such as Noh, Kabuki, and tales of warriors and beauties, to works you’d decorate a room with, paintings by Hokusai or wall-hangings of the Zodiac.
There is a piece called “Kagami no Ma” (Between the Mirror). After a Noh actor has put on his costume, he faces the mirror and prepares himself. He calms his mind and gets into his role, then puts his mask on. Other people can not get between him and the mirror. In this piece, he captures the tense moment before a Noh actor takes the stage.
There are also many pieces which draw from Chinese history. He has produced many dolls of Xiang Yu’s concubine, Consort Yu. After reading literature, he used his imagination, and reproduced her bewitching figure. He received the Prime Minister’s Prize for one of these, “Yushi Yushi”.
At first, “Boukyou” doesn’t look like a Hakata doll. It is painted completely white with powder from shells and chalk, and platinum foil is stuck to one portion. As modern homes are increasingly lacking a Japanese-style tokonoma, he made it as a doll that could be used to decorate a western-style room. From this, one can catch a glimpse of Inatomi’s adventurous spirit.
He’s also produces large-scale pieces. After receiving a request from a restaurant in Hiroshima, he produced a Sumo doll, “Raiden”. It is 2.2 m tall, and weighs 800 kg. Its scale as well as the process used to produce it are quite unusual. Inatomi, whose family makes pottery in Saga, used his special knowledge of kilns and flame in this creation. “Namahage”, a request from Oga, Akita, is a whopping 9.99 m tall. It is made from resin, and even today it is enjoyed by everyone as a symbol of Oga. He is the foremost Hakata doll maker, but he refuses to limit himself, and continues to use his independent creativity to send out new works into the world.