The Fascinating Doughnut Spin Hakata Doll

Shigehiro Nagano, Hakata Doll Maker

Shigehiro Nagano was motivated to become a doll maker after attending some Hakata doll-making trial lessons during college. He attended these lessons once a week for a year, and learned the entire process from drawing to making prototypes, even coloring. From there, Mr. Nagano became a full-time doll maker. After dropping out of Kyushu University’s Science Department, he began an apprenticeship under Traditional Doll Master Takeyoshi Kuniaki. Although many people begin their career as teenagers, Mr. Nagano did not begin seriously training as a doll maker until the age of twenty-five. “I felt that it’s useless to do the same things as other doll makers. I want to do things that only I can do,” says Mr. Nagano emphatically.

On a quiet residential street in Oonojou City, Mr. Nagano devotes at least eight hours a day to creating dolls in his workshop. Mr. Nagano’s best-known work is an elegant figure skater called Queen. The electric-powered doll spins around. Nagano was inspired to make Queen after seeing figure skaters performing the “doughnut spin” on television. With the flip of a switch the doll begins rotating, displaying beautifully slender arms and legs and capturing the essence of a figure skater performing a doughnut spin. The idea for a doll using the power of movement is due to Nagano’s scientific background. In fact, Nagano is probably the only person who has ever made an electric-powered spinning Hakata Doll.

It’s obvious how unique Mr. Nagano’s creations are when you see his other work. He has produced dolls based on subjects like the students of Fukuoka Girls High School doing the Maypole Dance; students sitting near a stream fanning themselves; local celebrities; and even dolls wearing Japanese sailor-style school uniforms. Mr. Nagano has made a scene where two children are building a sand castle, entitled “Oh!” The name comes from the moment when the hands of the children (who are digging from opposite sides) suddenly meet in the middle and they exclaim “Oh!” The work aims to capture this moment of surprise.

Mr. Nagano says, “I want to recreate things I have seen in my own experience. The more diversity there is in the themes of Hakata Dolls, the more people will get interested in them. I feel that I have a responsibility to produce works with impact.”

He believes in modern rather than traditional style. Nagano says he plans to make more Hakata dolls in sailor uniforms. “Even if there are more dolls like this, mainstream traditional dolls won’t disappear as a result.” Mr. Nagano intends to create more and more Hakata Dolls incorporating strong subculture components, such as Santa Claus and anime characters.