Festival of Kakunodate is a historic festival handed down for over 300 yeas in the Kakunodate area in Senboku City, Akita Prefecture. It is an annual festival of Myojin Shrine, the guardian god of the town and Jojuin Yakushido Temple. The festival is held for three days in September in hope of the town’s prosperity and business success.
The most spectacular is the float parade, in which 18 floats with warrior dolls and Kabuki character dolls atop of them are pulled around the city accompanied by the sounds of Japanese flute and drums played by ohayashi musicians. On the first day, the floats are pulled to Myojin Shrine. Then on the second day, they go along the street with samurai-styled old houses and head for the residence of the head of the Satake family, who were the descendants of the domain lord of this area in the Edo period, and drop in at Yakushido Temple on the third day.
The climax is the collision of the floats. When the floats run into each other in the street, the men start a negotiation to get the right of way. Then if the negotiation falls apart, they start to make the float collide each other, at which the spectators get excited and the street is surrounded with enthusiasm. This elegant but fierce festival was designated as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1991.
A gorgeous Japanese Doll Festival is held at Sairi residence in Marumori Town in Miyagi Prefecture from early February through late March every year.
Sairi Residence, which is the symbol of the town and open to the public as a history museum, was a residence of the Saito family, a wealthy merchant family counting seven generations from the Edo to Showa periods. As every generation of patriarch took the name of Saito Risuke, people called the residence “Sairi Residence.”
The gorgeous Hina dolls and doll fittings pertaining to the family are displayed in the large Japanese-styled room with 20 tatami-mats. Visitors can enjoy looking at antique dolls including a Hina doll made in the Kyoho era (1716-1736) and the Ichimatsu doll which a bride was carrying in her arms when she married into the family. You will be dazzled by the sight of so many gorgeous dolls assembled altogether. From the dolls’ features and atmosphere that differ from those of modern dolls, you will feel a long prosperous history of the family.
During the festival period, visitors can enjoy joining other events such as the Hina doll making class.
The Hina Festival of Murata is an event that takes place on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of March in Murata, Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture.
During the late Edo period, Murata flourished with the harvesting of thistle saffron. The town prospered through the trade of saffron and various goods between other regions of Japan.
The elegant hina doll is one item that was traded. During the hina festival, people adorn their houses and storehouses with old-fashioned dolls as well as dolls that were made after the Meiji period up to the present day.
The Hina Festival of Murata has been beloved and passed on from generation to generation.
Doi Bamboo Forest (Doi-chikurin) is located in Kodono-cho, Owase, Mie Prefecture. The forest was created by local millionaire Hachiroubei Doi, who had made a fortune in lumber.
Around 250 years ago, Hachiroubei imported several thousand moso bamboo trees from Kagoshima, then planted and cultivated them in a forest near his home. The warm yet rainy climate of Owase, and a time span of over 200 years, allowed the bamboo forest to grow to a height of 15m, covering more than 400m2. Among these are trees that have thickened to more than 30 centimeters in circumference.
At the entrance of the bamboo forest is a small museum called the 'House of Dolls'. This small house, built during the early Meiji period, was a country house for the Doi family, and currently displays a wide array of dolls collected from many different countries around the world.
The bamboo forest is silent except for the rustle of the leaves in the gentle winds, allowing the visitor to feel a sense of subtle and profound peace. Doi Bamboo Forest is a space for pure relaxation, and gives a pure Japanese sentiment to all visitors.
Miharu papier-mache craft is believed to have originated when Akita Morisue, the 4th lord of the Akita Clan based at Miharu castle, invited a doll-maker from Edo to introduce the art and culture of Edo and Kyoto to his locality.
There is uniqueness and beauty in this simple craft. Between 1688 and 1703, one samurai in the Miharu clan is said to have retired and begun crafting dolls using traditional Japanese paper and a technique known as 'tsutsumi'--a papier-mache doll-making skill from Sendai prefecture. This skill gradually became more refined and today it is practised in Takashiba Dekoya, in the Abuyama mountain district.
Papier-mache models of Tengu, Ebisu, Ooguro, Otafuku, Daruma and Mai-ningyo are made from wet Japanese washi paper, then dried and painted. The figures are engaging and colorful, and embody good fortune, as well as carry a natural earthiness.
Japan is considered to be a treasury of ningyou (dolls). This reputation developed in Kyoto, which has been considered the principle base of doll-making (Kyo-ningyou) for many years. The elegant and graceful Kyoto dolls are widely praised, and many fine, exquisite ningyou are still being made today.
The history of Kyo-ningyou dates back to the Heian period, when girls in the nobility used dolls called 'hina' to play house. As time passed, these dolls became more elaborate and impressive, so that by the Edo period, it had become a tradition to display these dolls on March 3rd (seku-no-hi).
The business of doll-making flourished. The day before seku-no-hi, doll-makers displayed an assortment of ningyou to spirited crowds of people.
In the late Edo period, Gosho-ningyou (Imperial palace dolls) were being made, which were sent from loyal courtiers to daimyos (feudal lords) as gifts.
The process of making Kyo-ningyou is formidable, and requires competence. These dolls are hand made, by artisans with great skill and knowledge of the process. This skill and specialization is what gives Kyo-ningyou their profound and genuine presence.