A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Japan`s Eye-Grabbing HINA DOLLS (雛人形)- Coming Out of the Closet – in all their variety!

Hina Dolls in Tsukuba
Hina Dolls in Tsukuba 

Though your calendar of traditional events tells you that the Hina Matsuri (doll festival) is on March 3rd, for ENJOYING THE DOLLS, this can be a little misleading. It IS true, of course, that on that day (or the evening before) families with daughters celebrate, and pray for their girls’ health, growth and success in finding a good match, and special dishes and sweets are eaten – CHIRASHI-ZUSHI (vinegared rice with colorful toppings), clam soup (the perfect fit of clam shells symbolize a good match), and green (to exorcize bad luck), white (for purity) and red (for peach blossoms) HISHI-MOCHI rice cakes.

 However, for those interested in the DOLLS THEMSELVES, March 3rd is usually the LAST CHANCE to see them, as they are traditionally packed up and put away the next day (leaving them out is believed to ruin a daughter’s chances of getting married)! So, if you you’d like to have a good look at these sometimes magnificent, and always interesting, traditional decorations, THE TIME IS NOW!


The traditional date for taking the family Hina Dolls out of storage is not firmly set, though it has historically been popular to do so on the day after RISHUN (February 3), the first day of spring, which means the dolls are on display for a full month. Some families wait a little longer before taking the dolls out of the closet, but even so, they will probably choose to do so on an auspicious day (TAI-AN, 大安). There are four of these lucky days this month — if you look at the small print on a Japanese calendar you will find that each date is marked with one of the signs of ROKUYO, which tells you which days of the month are lucky or unlucky.

See: www.seiyaku.com/customs/rokuyo.html

Still there is no set date for doll-setting and some busy or forgetful households might wait until the last moment (though setting out the dolls on March 2nd is considered Hito-ban Kazari, a ONE-NIGHT STAND (my translation), and this has been traditionally avoided), and some don’t display theirs at all (what a waste!), usually claiming that taking out the boxes, unwrapping the dolls, setting them up, etc., is just too much of a pain.

The Lobby of The Okura Hotel, Tsukuba
 The Lobby of The Okura Hotel, Tsukuba 2010 

The lobby of the same hotel- 2011

Spectacular, antique Hina Dolls will be on display this month in Tsuchiura, Makabe, and Tsukuba’s Mase area. If you can’t get to these special displays, you can always check out the dolls in the lobby of Tsukuba’s Okura Hotel, or even better, the temporary Hina Doll corner on the 6th floor of Tsukuba’s Seibu department store. There, you will also be able to admire the spectular(ly high) price tags on the cases (Hina Dolls are usually presented by a girls maternal grandparents).

Mini-Hina Dolls
 Mini-Hina Dolls 

I have written before of how the lack of space in Japanese homes has in recent years has led to the widespread popularity of smaller dolls and even tiny origami figures (which are actually more traditional!). I forgot to mention in that article the recent popularity of TSURUSHI BINA, hanging Hina Matsuri decorations, which can be hand-made by mothers or grandmothers and take up little space.

For more on the intriguing history of the Doll Festival and some new trends related to this ancient custom, see my March 2008 TsukuBlog post on the topic.

A pair of Hina Dolls made with silkworm cocoons (繭のひな人形)-at the Community center in Hojo, Tsukuba

A Hina Doll motifed NOREN (Japanese style entranceway curtain)

Tsurushi-Bina, hanging type Hina Festival decorations

One Comment

  • Tomoko Seto says:

    Today there is rain and snow after many weeks of fine weather.
    Rain means that spring is approaching.
    When I was a a child, I heard that we adorn the “Ohinasama” on the day of Usui.
    Usui is one of the 24 seasons in Japan.
    It comes the first weeks after Rishun.
    Usually around February 19 or 20.
    Many parents hoped that their daughter would find good husbands in the future.

    I like a “Hina ningyo”.
    I don’t have a “Godankazari”.
    I display small ceramic dolls and Hina arare.
    I enjoy the Girls’ Festival.