Did anything change after Nagoya Seasonal Decorations were recognized as traditional crafts in 2021?
Yes. Once it was designated as a traditional craft, I became qualified to take the Traditional Craftsman exam, which is a national certification. Now, I am the only certified Traditional Craftsman in Fuso.
Having the title of “Traditional Craftsman” must be a big boost for your new product.
I believe so. The days where you could sell any doll you made are gone. There are challenges with finding successors, orders are dwindling, and many people are quitting the business. That’s why we want to apply our doll-making skills to create products that people in Japan and abroad can enjoy as interior decorations throughout the year. We are also working with a company that makes snow caves, Ando Shoten, on developing other new products as part of the second phase of this project. This project has given me a sense of new possibilities for the future. It would be wonderful if our products showcasing our skills could also promote our dolls.
So you want to market your dolls not only in Japan but also overseas?
I hope we can tweak our dolls a bit and sell them to foreign customers as upgraded versions. I also want to use what we learned from this project to create dolls for domestic customers that can be displayed as interior decorations all year round, not just as seasonal decorations.
What does making things by hand mean to Nagae Traditional Dolls in this era?
Doll production is hard to mechanize, so even mass-produced products for wholesalers were mostly made by hand with a lot of labor. In recent years, there has been a shift towards smaller quantities with more variety, emphasizing the uniqueness of each doll. We have an edge in being able to make semi-customized or fully customized dolls according to our customers’ wishes. The size, costume, backdrop, flowers, ornaments, snow caves, etc. of the dolls can be mixed and matched, and you can also choose the face, which changes the mood.
I am truly thankful whenever our dolls are discovered by people who appreciate and enjoy them. It’s my pride as a craftsman. You can’t get that joy from mass production by machines.
You spend a lot of time and effort on your products, but how would you like to see them used?
Being a good craftsman is no longer just about making your product. My role is to listen to the customers’ desires, make them satisfied and communicate with them. I would be overjoyed if people who pick up our products feel the same richness in their hearts that I do when I decorate with Hina dolls. I hope that they will treasure our products as interior decorations for a long time to come.