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The City of Dolls
by Masaru
March 3, 2008

 

After the Second World War, my family moved to Fukuoka city, on the Kyushu Island of Japan where I spent the happiest time of my childhood. This city is one of Japan's seven biggest cities and has a good fishing port. The city faces China and has a history of invasion. Even today, one can find some evidence of fighting, such as stone banks on beaches. Based on its historical background and warm climate, people are rowdy or happy go lucky but inside they are so nice that one can never forget their kindness.

People in Fukuoka are very fond of festivals. “Yamakasa” is one of three festivals in Japan and in July attracts more than 100,000 visitors. During that time, fifteen shopping malls make their own doll towers, 20 feet wide 50 feet high. On the last day of festival, eight neighbourhood groups race around the designated route while carrying a portable shrine. Twenty naked men (only short, t-shaped, underwear) rush to the goal and spectators throw cold water on them, then worship with clapping hands. What an epic scene it is! It starts at 6 o’clock in the morning and ends at 7 o’clock, and is televised throughout Japan every year.

“Hakata doll”, with its 500 years history, is another famous souvenir. Made out of clay, they are formed into various kinds of human figures. Those are from two inches to two feet tall and sell from five to five thousand dollars. On my way home from school, I would pass the street crowded with Hakata doll distributors and sometimes I could watch the doll makers painting dolls. Sitting beside the window, I spent hours watching them do their job.

I lived in Fukuoka city for twelve years. My house was located near the seaside. I have good memories of playing with nature such as catching fish, digging clams, or picking sea weeds for food. After graduating from high school, I went to Tokyo to find a job. Many years later, I returned to my home town to find cultural enlightenment had affected it. Instead of seaside, there are high rise apartments on reclaimed ground. Instead of streetcars, underground subways run across the city. To my comfort, the Hakata doll welcomed me with a smile. After all, Hakata is forever my only home town .