When living in Japan, you might notice that as you approach March 3 the decorations for Hinamatsuri start appearing. During this festivity to wish for the good health of girls, families celebrate by displaying decorative dolls for the month leading up to the special day.
Usually featuring the image of an emperor, empress, and various attendees of a Heian-era style banquet on a luscious red carpet, these doll displays used to be very bulky and expensive. But these days compact elegance seems to be the trend.
In a small shop in Kamigori, Hyogo Prefecture, a craft shop called Matsui Kogeisha makes Hinamatsuri decorations based on the story of Princess Kaguya. She is the protagonist in a famous Japanese tale, “Taketori Monogatari,” which roughly translates as “the tale of the bamboo cutter.” It is so popular it has even been made into a Studio Ghibli anime film.
The Hinamatsuri decorations in this shop reflect this popular story. Called Kaguyabina (from the combination of kaguya and hina), the two washi paper dolls of a prince and princess wearing a kimono are placed aesthetically inside a cut section of bamboo. The faces have a very soft hand-drawn expression, and the whole decoration is 20 centimeters high and 12 centimeters wide. You can even get a Kaguyabina featuring a music box and traditional spherical Japanese toy called otedama, for ￥5,800 JPY (about $52 USD).
The founder of the shop, 81-year-old Hiroshi Matsui, explains how 2019 is a special year. “We started working the first year of the Heisei era, so this year [as the last year of the era] is a particularly moving moment. We pray for everyone to have a warm spring.”
The shop is said to ship more than a thousand of these decorations by the latter part of February.
Interestingly, if you do buy this doll set, remember to promptly pack the decoration away come March 3. Rumour has it that if you delay until March 4, the girl in the family might not get married.
For the anime-enthusiasts, you might have noticed that in the Oscar-nominated Anime film Mirai no Mirai, part of the storyline involves the main character trying to pack away beautiful dolls, which the father forgot to put away, so that the daughter will not suffer as a consequence.
So if you want a compact, elegant way of celebrating Hinamatsuri, or just understanding a bit more of Japanese culture, why not visit this shop in Hyogo prefecture?