Shizuoka Pref. has been known for producing paraphernalia for the Hina Matsuri (doll festival), which included a sewing box, tea utensils, a chest, nagamochi (Japanese trunk), and a scissor case. Those items were originally made to mock the gorgeous bridal trousseau of a warrior’s family in the Edo period. Though miniature, they are made as elaborately as real things. Hina doll fittings had been already made in the Suruga district in the 16th century, when the Imagawa clan ruled the province. In the Edo period (1603-186), carpenters with advanced craft techniques were called together to construct Kunosan Toshogu Shrine and Sengen Shrine. Many of them settled down in this area and taught their techniques to the local craftsmen, by which the production of hina doll fittings greatly developed. The main characteristics of Suruga Hina industry is that all the parts are made separately by craftsmen specializing in woodwork, lacquering, Makie decoration, or metal work. It is said that the industry took off because of this style of specialization and it also made mass production possible. The warm humid climate of the area and its geographical condition of being located between the nation’s two largest consumption centers, Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto, furthered the growth of hina doll fitting industry in the Suruga region.
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.
On March 3 each year, Hina Matsuri, or Girl's Day, is held at home to pray for the growth and happiness of daughters.
Hina Matsuri is one of five seasonal festivals in Japan and the origin of the festival is as a purification ceremony held in March.
In Japan, dolls were used to drive evil spirits out and this custom came to be connected with toy dolls used in 'Hina Plays'. The hina dolls were decorated and became the basis for the Hina Matsuri.
Lozenge-shaped rice cakes are one of the offerings made at the festival. One of the base ingredients, mugwort, is supposed to remove negative energies. White sake is offered, too, and is supposed to purify the body. A clam is also offered to pray for a good match for the girl who will fit like two parts of a shell. Many other lucky things are offered to pray for the girl's growth.
Hanging ornaments such as these are known as 'tsurushi (hanging) kazari' or 'tsurushi hina'. These ornaments have been part of traditional culture since the Edo period, and the custom is rooted in the Izu-Inatori Onsen region. During the Hina (Girls) Festival, parents prayed for their daughter's happiness through a thread taken from a piece of old clothing. It is this hina hanging ornament that swings from both sides of the tiered stand used for the presentation of the hina dolls.
This custom is called 'sagemon' in Yanagawa, Kyushu, 'kasafuku' in Sakata, Yamagata, and 'hanging hina' in Izu-Inatori. Only these three districts have inherited this historical patrimony, documents and photos.
People entrust their wishes to the ornament. Some 110 ornaments have separate meanings. For example, the red eyes of a rabbit are supposed to have the power of causing and curing diseases. A rabbit is said to be the servant of a deity.
It is lots of fun to decorate with ornaments that suit each season. Your favorite small objects will colour your life and enrichen your heart.
The Tenryohita Doll's Festival takes place each year on 3 March, Girls' Day, in Hita-shi, Oita Prefecture. At this time, dolls and doll-making tools are displayed in about 20 old family houses and reference libraries throughout the town.
During the Edo period, an early spring Ohinasama (doll) festival spread among the general public along with a rise in urban prosperity. This festival became a traditional Japanese event to wish for the health, wholesomeness and happiness of girls. At this time, because Hita was directly governed by the Edo Bakufu, a governor's residence (daikansho) was built. As merchants became wealthier, the Tenryohita became greater and thrived to such an extent that it was called the greatest festival of Kyushu.
The dolls and doll-making tools handed down from generation to generation from the old families of the Edo and Meiji periods, astound us with their extravagance and splendor. The elegant, lustrous and graceful features of the dolls, along with their majestic kimonos and gracious figures, reflect the financial power the wealthy merchants possessed, and the prosperous, cultivated lives they led.
Edo Dress-up Dolls (ishougin ningyo) is a general name for any doll, such as May, March or Ichimatsu dolls, whose costume you can change. These dolls date back to the period of the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi.
Dress-up dolls were originally made in Kyoto, but as Edo culture flourished, many Kyoto techniques came to be practised by Edo artisans. They invented various dolls such as Hina, Satsuki and Ichimatsu dolls, which were the prototype of the Edo dress-up Doll.
A typical doll's body is made from toso, a paste made by mixing paulownia powder with glue; its lively face is layered with white paint; the eyes are glass and the hair is human with silk threads. The costumes can be made from materials such as crepe.
Using these traditional Edo techniques, today's Edo dress-up dolls match beauty and prettiness with a modern sense.
Yukio Minamikawa is an Edo Oshie Hagoita craftsman, and was born in 1929 in Sumida-ku, Tokyo.
In 1945, Minamikawa became involved in the production of 'hagoita' (battledores) under the instruction of his father. After that, he began making not only hagoita, but decorative items for himself to be shown at annual fairs held in May and March.
Every year, Minamikawa makes hagoita with a portrait of the symbolic person of each period. He makes hagoita for the Asakusa Hagoita Fair, held from 17th to 19th December, as well as dolls for May and March seasonal festivals.
He says: 'For the customers who are looking forward to my work, I will continue to make joyful hagoitas.'
Minamikawa is a director of the Tokyo Tori-no-Ichi Hagoita Association, a deputy director of the Tokyo Hina-doll Industry Association, and a president of Ayame-kai. In 1997, he was designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman of Katsushika-ku.
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.