Posted: January 21

Kumihama Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri) in Kyotango

To celebrate hinamatsuri (sometimes called doll festival or girl’s day) families with daughters under 10 set up doll displays in their house. It officially takes place on March 3rd, but in Kumihama you can see doll displays already set up. Centered around the Inaba Family Merchant House (Gosho Inaba Honke) the whole town is hosting the doll festival.

As you walk around the town you will be able to see shops displaying their own collection of dolls. It feels like the whole town has been turned into an art gallery.

The main display however is at the Inaba Family Merchant House. There is no admission fee and in addition to the several different styles of dolls, you can have a look around the historic property.

Take Hina (Bamboo Dolls)

These dolls are handcrafted out of Japanese paper and set in bamboo stands. The volunteers from NPO Hojin「Waku-Waku Suru Kumihama wo Tsukuru Kai」 (NPO Coorporation [Making Kumihama Exciting]) have been making them since 2005. This year they have 220 on display at the Inaba Family Merchant House.

There are many different styles and the scenes vary slightly. While traditionally they are supposed to represent the emperor and empress of Japan the styling is often considered reminiscent of a wedding scene, especially the dolls in front of a gold folding screen.

These paper dolls are also for sale. For between 2300 – 2500 yen you can have a lovely pair of dolls adorn your house’s entrance. But supplies are limited.

Dolls from History

No doll festival would be complete without a collection of historic dolls. These are donations that the Inaba House has received from people in the community. Some of these can be very old indeed, both of the below examples are from the Edo era, in the early 18th century.

The attention to detail is quite impressive. Even to the point of making each layer of clothing for the dolls to wear and the miniature tatami (woven straw) mats for them to sit on.

Doll Festival Scenes

Finally it is common to create small scenes, small because they’re dolls, they can actually be pretty grand in scale. The most common form of display is a tiered display. Here the dolls represent the emperor and empress, and their attendants. Complete with drink servers, musicians, court advisers, and various pieces of furniture.

Some liberties can be taken with the display to make it appear more house-like. This may be a holdover from when the dolls were used for doll play (hina asobi) by the emperor’s daughter.

When viewed in person you can really see the level of craftsmanship that goes into the production of these dolls and accessories. And you can begin to appreciate the skill and patience it must take to produce works of this quality.

The display is scheduled to run until April 4th 2021. The Inaba Family Merchant House is open from 9:00 – 4:00, and closed on Wednesdays.

For English information on the Inaba Family Merchant House please click here. Or visit their homepage directly here (Japanese language only).