Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yurihonjo hinakaido doll festival - part 1

On February 28 and March 06, hubby and me went to see a festival known as Yurihonjo hinakaido. Yurihonjo hinakaido is the name of a public annual traditional doll display festival in Yurihonjo city of Akita prefecture. The Japanese doll festival (hina matsuri in Japanese) is held on March 03 every year. Families with daughters display a set of ornamental dolls (hina ningyo) representing the emperor, empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period. The dolls are placed on platforms with a red decoration sheet called a himosen. The custom of displaying dolls began during the Heian period. It was believed that the dolls possessed the power to contain evil spirits. Hina matsuri originated from an ancient Japanese custom called hina-nagashi in which straw hina dolls were placed on a boat and sent down a river to the sea, which supposedly took evil spirits along with them.
Yurihonjo hinakaido doll display festival is coordinated by the Akita prefecture Yuri regional development office. This year, the hina dolls are displayed in five public exhibition halls from February 07 until April 19. These public halls are Kameda castle Sato Yasohachi art museum, Iwaki local history museum, Ouchi denshokan, Honjo kyodo shiryoukan, and Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu. In addition, ‘Machinaka hina meguri Yurihonjo hinakaido’ festival takes place in about fifty different locations within the city, and this year it runs from March 01 until March 22. People can drop by in shops, hotels and offices, and see traditional hina doll displays, often dating back in the same family for hundreds of years. The hina doll displays vary greatly in size, history and style.
We visited the hina doll displays in the Sasaki house in Amasagi mura in Iwaki, Ouchi denshokan, Honjo kyodo shiryoukan, and Kameda castle Sato Yasohachi art museum.

Sasaki House in Amasagi mura
On February 28, hubby and me visited the famous tourist spot called Amasagi mura village in the town of Iwaki in northern Yurihonjo. This village recreates Edo era life and houses of various classes of people such as samurai, farmer, and merchant are reconstructed in the village compound. The Sasaki house located inside the village is a reconstruction of the Edo period house of a farmer. Under the Machinaka hina meguri festival, two sets of hina dolls were displayed in the living room of the Sasaki house. The dolls probably belong to the end of the Edo era. The dolls looked so beautiful and exquisite.
Sasaki house

First set of hina dolls

Second set of hina dolls

Hubby sitting in front of hina doll display

Me sitting in front of hina doll display

Michinoeki Ouchi Dewa denshokan
On March 06, we went to see the hina doll display in a public exhibition hall in Michinoeki Ouchi Dewa denshokan, which is a conglomerate of library, folk museum, and community education center. The conglomerate is located in a park near a railway station as well as a highway interchange. The dolls displayed here are called Yabase tsuchi ningyo. This doll exhibition is famous for the comical servant figure styled dolls, and about 300 simple, lovely, and native shaped dolls were on display.
Entrance of Ouchi Dewa denshokan

The origin of Yabase ningyo dolls dates back to 1781, when a doll maker came from Kyoto city and settled in Yabase area in Akita, and started the tradition of making these dolls out of clay. At the peak, when the Yabase ningyo doll making flourished, there were about ten shops making more than 1000 varieties of dolls. However, now only one woman named Tomo Michikawa continues the tradition of Yabase doll making.
The display of hina dolls was really wonderful, and the dolls were displayed on two sides of the exhibition hall. I have divided the display on one side of the hall into seven segments for getting clear images of the dolls.
Display of hina dolls on one side of the exhibition hall

First segment of the hina doll display

Second segment of the hina doll display

Third segment of the hina doll display

Fourth segment of the hina doll display

Fifth segment of the hina doll display

Sixth segment of the hina doll display

Seventh segment of the hina doll display

Hubby posing in front of hina doll display

Me in front of hina doll display

Display of hina dolls on another side of the exhibition hall

Honjo kyodo shiryoukan
Next, on March 06 itself, we went to see the hina doll display in another public exhibition hall in Honjo kyodo shiryoukan. Honjo kyodo shiryoukan is located in Honjo city and is a local historical artifacts museum. Ten hina doll sets containing 100 dolls and 250 sets of related accessories were on display.
Hubby standing in front of hina doll display

Hina dolls of Watanabe ke (family house): These dolls are with Yoshio Watanabe family since the year 1838. These dolls originally belonged to the wife of the ninth Honjo han domain leader Masatsune Rokugo. Honjo han was a domain of the Edo period located in Dewa province (present day Akita and Yamagata prefectures). It was ruled by the Rokugo clan, who moved there from Hitachi.
Hina dolls of Watanabe house

Hina dolls of Watanabe house

Hina dolls of Shinoda ke: These hina dolls are from the Taisho period.
Hina dolls of Shinoda house

Hina dolls of Takeda ke: Takeda ke family lived in Honjo han domain during the middle of the Edo period, and conducted business related to wood. Takeda family bought these dolls from Kyoto during the Edo period. The eyes of the dolls are made up of black ink called bokujuu (sumi). The skirt dress of the empress doll is red in color and the delicate hands of the doll can be seen to be coming out of the clothes.
Hina dolls of Takeda house

Hina dolls of Takeda house

The emperor and empress hina dolls of Takeda house

Hina dolls of Eisenji temple: These hina dolls are now kept in a temple called Eisenji. These dolls originally belonged to the daughter of the eleventh Honjo han domain leader Masaakira Rokugo. There are two hina doll sets containing 40 dolls and 200 accessories.
Hina dolls of Eisenji temple

The empress hina doll

The empress hina doll (photo taken without using camera flash)

Hina dolls of Takizawa ke: These dolls are also Edo period dolls. These dolls were made in Edo (present day Tokyo). There are two sets of dolls called Kokimbina and Kyohoubina. The eyes of the dolls are made up of glass, which makes the eyes very bright and shiny (kira kira in Japanese).
Hina dolls of Takizawa house

Kokimbina dolls

Kyohoubina dolls

Hina dolls of Suzuki ke: This consisted of a complete hina doll house set.
Hina doll house set of Suzuki ke

Hina doll house set of Suzuki ke

There was a display of another hina doll house set and a display of paper art hina dolls.
Another hina doll house set

Paper art hina dolls

We also visited a few other rooms in the museum. In one of the room, we saw a display of many colorful and beautiful ornamental balls called goten mari. Goten mari was originally made by silk thread in to a ball. During the Edo era, ladies in noble households throughout the country enjoyed making and playing with these balls. As a result, this ball came to be called goten mari or the ‘ball of the palace’.
Display of goten mari

Display of goten mari

In yet another exhibition room, we saw a display of samurai armor of the Edo period. Hubby posed in front of these armors.
Hubby posing in front of samurai armor

Next, we visited the hina doll display in the exhibition halls of Kameda castle Sato Yasohachi art museum. I will write about this in the next post.
I really enjoyed seeing the display of various kinds of exquisite and historical hina dolls.


Dhrubajyoti said...


Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Dhrubajyoti for your comment.

Runa said...

Dolls are very beautiful. Is this celebrated in every household with young girl(s) or in just few families with antique dolls?

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Runa for your comment. Hubby and me went to see 'Hinakaido' festival which is a public annual display of doll sets. That is the reason why we could see so many antique dolls.
'Hina matsuri' is held inside home on 3rd March every year. Japanese parents would give a set of Hina dolls to their baby girl on her first Hina Matsuri and would decorate and display the dolls annually to celebrate the child’s growth. So all families with daughters celebrates hina matsuri.

sasabyasachi said...


Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Sabyasachi, for your comment. Ami besh enjoy korchi writing blog nowadays. Please visit often.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Runa, I forgot to mention in the previous comment that hina dolls that are displayed at home for 'hina matsuri' festival will probabaly be used for 'hinakaido' festival after a few hundreds of years!

Runa said...

Wow, if I were a Japanese girl this day would be my favorite childhood day. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and blog.

mylifeinjapan-jayaprakash said...

Hi Manisha, I get something new...a piece of Japanese history or a page from the real life experience when I read through your blog. It is a nice experience.

I wanted to steal some of the dolls! Keep on sharing your experiences. I find pleasure in reading real life experiences and whenever I get time I also update my blog.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Jayaprakash. I also love hina dolls. I am enjoying seeing wonderful and amazing places in Japan...
Your blog is very interesting and I read regularly.

Saria Rin said...

I really enjoyed looking at your photos! When I was young, I really wanted to have a Hina set, but our house was small, and my family hated spending any money they didn't need to~ x_x
we always did sing the Childrens song together, though!

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Saria Rin for your comment. Yeah,if the house is small it is rather difficult to have Hina dolls (or any kind of dolls) at home as it takes up a lot of space. But as a kid we always wish to have our own dolls...

I too had only one wooden doll in my childhood to play with. During my childhood, dolls and such playthings were considered to be a luxury in India....Things have changed a lot since then...

Carole Rae said...

This is a really amazing! Thanks for posting this! I'm looking up different samurai armor from different eras and all that good stuff. =) All the different dolls were lovely.


Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your nice comment Carole Rae...Hope you enjoyed seeing the antique dolls...