We'd like to introduce you to Mr. Hisataka Hongō, the Hongō family's 10th generation Matsukawa Daruma doll craftsman.
Matsukawa Daruma dolls are believed to have emerged amid the devastating Great Tenpō Famine from the Edo period, which lasted from 1833 to 1837. During this time, Northern Honshū was hit with a sudden drop in temperatures, heavy rain and flooding, which irreversibly damaged the crops in the region. This loss in crops lead to food shortages, people struggling to survive on scarce resources, and society falling into despair. All anyone could do was pray. Naturally, this was no time to be engaging in wars, which left the samurai with a lot more time on their hands. That's when Toyonoshin Matsukawa, a samurai who served the Date clan, is believed to have created the Matsukawa Daruma talisman. This in turn, led other samurai of the Date clan to also specialize in this craft.
Among these samurai was Mr. Hongō's great-great- (...) grandfather, one of Matsukawa's disciples. Learning directly from the original creator himself, Grandpa Hongō directly inherited the techniques and proper structural formation necessary to make these good luck dolls. Since then, this samurai craft has been passed down the Hongō family for 10 generations and is still being kept alive to this day. Made out of washi paper and by strictly adhering to the original creators techniques and design, Matsukawa Daruma's appearance has remained unchanged for two centuries! They are virtually indistinguishable from their original counterparts by Matsukwa himself. Keeping faithful to the traditions of this craft even today, only the direct descendants of samurai from the Date clan can paint the eyes onto Matsukawa Daruma. At Hongō Daruma-ya, this responsibility falls onto Mr. Hongō.
Check out this blog post to find out the meaning behind Matsukawa Daruma's eyes, and why they are already painted on before purchase!
Today, the two-hundred-year-old art and tradition of the Matsukawa Daruma craft is being kept alive at Hongō Daruma-ya in Sendai, Japan, by Mr. & Mrs. Hongō along with the valued help of another fellow craftsman.