Hinamatsuri, or the Doll Festival, and Kyoto traditional crafts


Dear readers,

Have you ever heard of the Doll Festival (also known as Peach Festival or Girls’ Day) celebrated on March 3rd? Of course, if you live in Japan, you’re familiar with it.

During this period of the lunar calendar, when peach blossoms begin to appear, Hina dolls are displayed to wish for happiness and health of little girls. The dolls are believed to protect girls from illnesses and accidents on their behalf.

Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer of these dolls, but in the old days, some families used to decorate as many as seven levels of a special display platform with gorgeous Hina dolls. The top level was decorated with the Dairihina, the Emperor and Empress, to express their high status, and multiple levels of splendid Hina dolls were displayed.

A simple ornament called Shinnokazari in which only the Emperor and Empress sit together is very popular because it is compact, does not take up much space and is easy to display.

The skills of doll making, one of Kyoto traditional industries, have been handed down from generation to generation by local artisans (Kyo-ningyo-shi). The process of making Hina dolls is divided into six steps, each of them handled by a specialist: head maker, weaver, prop maker, hands and feet maker and hairdresser. The final touch to the whole process is made by the kimono dresser, who combines tradition and skill to create these Kyoto Hina dolls.

There are also Hina ornaments that are even easier to decorate. Some of them, such as Kyoto mountings and Kyoto pottery dolls, are made using traditional Kyoto techniques and are considered some of the most popular decorations to feel the coming of spring.

As you can see, the traditions and craftsmanship of Kyoto can be enjoyed in various aspects of Japanese people’s lives throughout the four seasons.

Are there any traditions or customs in your country that celebrate the growth of small children in such a way?

Words: Yutaka Sato (Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design)

Translation: Anastasiya Bulkavets (