Ryūkyū Hariko / papier-mâché figure

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Simple Okinawan folk toys

About Hariko papier-mâché 
Hariko papier-mâché is a craft where paper or a similar material is layered over a mould made from wood or clay, leaving the inside hollow when finished and thus lighter than it looks on the outside. This craft originated in China, before being spread around the world.  
The history of Ryūkyū Hariko
   In the past large-scale iirimun (toy markets) used to be take place on yukkanuhii (meaning “the 4th day”) every year in Okinawa. While yukkanuhii meant the 4th of May on the lunar calendar, in actual fact it denotes the 5 days from the 1st to the 5th of May full of events for kids. The toys markets are held between the 1st and the 3rd, the haarii dragon boat race is held on the 4th, while on the 5th children receive amagashi (porridge-like dessert made from barley, mung beans and brown sugar).    During this period Ōdōri street and side roads near the harbor area of Naha city would become lively with lots of street stalls selling toys hung on door panels. The toys being sold included hariko (papier-mâché figures), clay dolls, wooden toys, among others. Apart from certain types of toys, there were no craftsmen specializing in making them at the time, so skillful people or craftsmen would make toys in their breaks from work during the festival period.   Despite the great popularity enjoyed by the folk toys markets in Naha, toys made on mainland Japan known as Yamato-iirimun (Yamato toys) such as tin toys and wind-up toys began to appear around the middle of the Taishō period. As a result of these toys of the new era, traditional folk toys like the hariko papier-mâché gradually lost popularity at the toys markets. Eventually, the curtain would also close on the toys markets due to the outbreak of WWII. The toys markets were never revived after the war, and Ryūkyū Hariko became rare folk-craft toys only owned by collectors.
Making use of everyday materials
Dampened newspaper or old brush-calligraphy paper is pasted over wooden or clay moulds in several layers and left to dry.
Making sure the paper is absolutely dry
A cutter or knife is used to cut an opening into the papier-mâché.
Removing the papier-mâché
Care is taken to keep the shape intact while removing the papier-mâché from the mould.
Adding weight
A weight made from clay is attached to the bottom of the re-joined papier-mâché.
Glue and kofun powder are mixed and painted over the papier-mâché several times to make the undercoat.
Skilled work
The back is painted red and the lower front yellow, leaving the face part white. The nose, eyes and eyebrows are then painted in black.
The finished product: Ucchikubusaa (self-righting doll)
The slightly open eyes are traditional and Chinese in style. This type of papier-mâché self-righting doll is popular because they embody the wish of parents to see their children grow up healthy and strong regardless through ups and downs in life.
Morito Toyonaga, RoadWorks toy creator
Born in Okinawa in 1976, Morito Toyonaga began making Ryūkū Hariko papier-mâché figures (whose production had once been suspended) after studying sculpture at Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts. His creative papier-mâché figures include traditional motifs, as well as characters from mythologies, folklores and fairytales from around the world. Thanks to him, Ryūkȳu Hariko figures that once became items only owned by collectors have become familiar items again. Furthermore, he has also been collaborating with craft artists from other fields, actively creating glass paintings, lacquer paintings, ceramic paintings, among others. His works have also been selected for several exhibitions at the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum.    
Ryūkyū Hariko today and its future
Artists such as Morito Toyonaga and Mariko Nakamura (granddaughter of Yasufumi Kokura who strived to revive and popularize Ryūkyū Hariko after WWII) continue making the papier-mâché craft. With these artists at the centre of the craft, Ryūkyū Hariko figures are being sold in craft shops in Naha and around Japan, while workshops for children are also held at Okinawa prefectural museums, art museums and other places. 

There will certainly be more opportunities in the future for Ryūkyū Hariko figures to become better known.

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Supported by:
Toyonaga Morito, Gangu RoadWorks

Images provided by:
Yamana Shinsei, Professor, Kyoto Seika University Faculty of Humanities

Direction & text by:
Shikama Naohito

Murabayasi Chikako, Shikama Naohito

English translation by Eddy Y.L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Ueyama Emiko, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directers:
Maezaki Shinya,Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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