Every year in march, all across Japan people are celebrating girl’s day on March 3. The day is marked by the decoration of hina doll displays – large and elegant displays of dolls fashioned to look like members of royalty from ancient Japan. However, as you’ve likely guessed by reading thus far, Tokushima takes a somewhat different approach to this traditional festival.
The grand entrance to the Big Hina Matsuri display.
The Big Hina Matsuri
Katsuura in the middle south-west of Tokushima is home to the Big Hina Matsuri, a long-standing festival in which hina dolls are collected from all across the country to be put on display. The ningyo bunka koryukan, home to the festival, now holds over 15,000 dolls and puts them on display each year during late February and on into march. As you can see in the photo (top right) the scale is really something, and you won’t regret going to take a look! I promise!
To those who fear that going to look at piles upon piles of dolls might not be very interesting, have no fear. The dolls may take the main stage, but there are other activities going on as well. Last year when I went to take a look, there was also traditional Japanese tea and sweets on sale, and a display by the local cheer leading team, amongst other performances from the local area.
A stack of hina dolls on display.
And of course, the dolls themselves are interesting too. Due to the collection’s growth over a very long period of time, there are many different kinds of dolls. Some are very new, while others are very old and have bits and pieces missing (one or two dolls sport very wild and interesting hairstyles). It is interesting to see how the style of the displays have changed over the year, as well as see the amount of detail and personality put into the construction of each doll. Each and every single doll is different in some way or another, which is almost hard to believe considering how many there are on display.
Size, too, differs from doll to doll. While the majority are quite small, there are also some large dolls as well, including some around one meter high that are sure to give anyone with a doll phobia nightmares for the rest of the week.
A Reason for Everything
The Big Hina Matsuri didn’t simple come about through the desire to collect hordes and hordes of dolls, however. In fact, the reason that dolls are sent here from all over Japan as opposed to simply being disposed of is part superstition and part respect for the craftsmanship put into making them.
Simply put, people find it difficult to throw away the dolls. They are not only expensive, but it is considered just cause for bad luck to rain down from the heavens on the offending person/s.
Hina Matsuri – The Song
You guessed it – the hina matsuri is no exception when it comes to traditional festival songs. Listen close next time you’re out shopping and you might just hear it!
“Akari o tsukemashou bonbori ni, ohana o agemashou momo no hana, go-nin bayashi no fue taiko, kyo wa tanoshii Hinamatsuri.”
“Let’s light the lanterns, let’s set peach flowers, five court musicians are playing flutes and drums, today is the joyful Dolls’ Festival.”