March starts out with a holiday for girls. The aptly named “Girls Day” coincides with the Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival), or Peach Blossom Festival, featuring a very traditional display of dolls. Complete doll sets will contain representations of the Emperor and Empress, three female attendants, five musicians, and assorted nobles and servants. Larger sets will have more. Smaller sets may simply contain the Emperor and Empress.
The practice started in the Heian period, when superstition held that the dolls had the power to contain evil spirits. The dolls begin to appear in February and in true Japanese style they are removed immediately after the festival; tradition holds that leaving the dolls past March 4 will cause your daughter to marry late! The horror!
If you don’t have a collection of hina dolls yourself (and it’s unlikely you would, considering how expensive they can be) you can still see some amazing collections around Aichi. Below are a few of the best places at which you can check them out.
Tokugawa Art Museum has perhaps the best collection in the city and features diverse and impressive examples built and handed down through the ancient samurai family line. They are simply gorgeous, and display a level of craftsmanship in the various miniaturized accouterments that you will not often see. In short, this royal family has a collection of dolls befitting their status.
Tokugawa Art Museum will display their extensive collection of dolls until April 8. Admission is 1200 yen, and if you make the trip I highly recommend you visit Tokugawaen, which is my personal favorite Japanese style garden in Nagoya.
You can get there on the Nagoya Kanko Route Bus leaving from bus stop 8 in front of JR Nagoya Station.
For more information on the museum and its surrounds, check out our article here.
As the city of Seto, just outside of Nagoya, is famed for its ceramics (which you can read all about here), it makes it the ideal place to see beautifully crafted hina dolls. Until March 4, at Setugura Museum, the heart of Seto’s historical ceramics production, is a fine collection of up to 1,000 glass and ceramic hina dolls. The main display is on a four meter high pyramid – obviously nicknamed the ‘hinamid’ – but you will find other displays all around the town.
Each year the residents of the traditional old town of Asuke work together to bring a pretty amazing collection of hina dolls. All around the town, until March 11, at over 140 stores or private houses you can see a variety of dolls, spanning the generations from the Edo period up to the modern day. Some are hand painted clay, others are made from old kimono fabric, and more are made by all sorts of interesting materials. It’s a great opportunity to see a diverse collection in a beautiful old town.
For a few other suggestions a little farther afield, check out the ever excellent kikuko-nagoya.com website.