Shimoura clay doll
Memory of the studio visit to buy the clay dolls in Amakusa, Kumamoto.
Driving more than three hours from my parents home, I went to see the craftsman of the clay dolls. (I also went to visit a few ceramicists in Amakusa area after them.)
It was raining but I was able to see the beautiful foggy mountain views on the way to Amakusa. There were literally no one on the road and I completely lost reception on my cell phone. I pulled my car over and enjoyed the quiet moment looking at the ocean. (Which is a super rare moment for a mom of two!)
One of the lady craftsmen, Ms. Munakata showed me the studio, and explained their history and why she wanted start working as a craftsman after retiring her job at city hall.
Shimoura-benten-kai has started in 2013 as a group to support local businesses and traditional techniques to create the dolls. This small town Shimoura in Amakusa area used to be a well known place for clay dolls and has more than 300 years of history.
Unfortunately most craftsman have retired but recently a few number of women have volunteered to learn the techniques to create dolls and carry on the tradition.
Ms. Munakata showed me one of their popular Amabie dolls. Amabie is a legendary (imaginary) Japanese mermaid/merman. In the old days people from this area believed it protected them from becoming ill.
After the craftsman (women) creates this Amabie clay doll, they bring them to the nearest shrine and have them “oharai” (purification.)
You will find the talisman of purification called “ofuda” from the shrine underneath each Amabie doll.
The lady craftsman team also make very tasty hand squeezed local citrus juice only for late spring to summer time. I wish I can carry them here...!
While we were chatting and myself enjoying her hand squeezed citrus juice, a neighboring fisherman stoped by and offered me to take some of the mackerels he just got from the ocean.
They said, "You should bring a cooler box with you when you go on a buying trip next time. !"