Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture – In a little place called Doll Town or ‘Ningyo no Machi’ on Takasago street in Matsumoto City, there are quite a few doll shops, each with their own unique charm. Some have their products on display in protective glass cases, while others are being displayed out, and depending on the time of year, you may either find lovely Japanese hina dolls for girls or even traditional Japanese kabuto helmets for boys. The Hayashi Doll Factory is a shop on this street that has three floors. They carry a lot of different varieties of dolls and the staff are very resourceful in helping you find just what you’re looking for.
Why Go to a Doll Factory?
Have you heard of Children’s Day? In Japan, there are special days that children are celebrated on. One is on March 3rd. In English it’s called Girl’s Day, but in Japanese, it’s called ‘Hina Matsuri’, meaning doll festival, or ‘Momo no Sekku’, meaning peach festival. Girls are celebrated on this day, and in preparation, hina dolls are brought out from storage and displayed. A typical set would consist of seven tiers filled with dolls and little ornate decorations used to depict imperial items; however, these days many families choose to go with only one – the top and most important tier.
Another date of importance is May 5th. This day is currently known as Children’s Day or ‘Kodomo no Hi’, and is a date in which all children are meant to be celebrated. In the past however, this day used to be called ‘Tango no Sekku’, and it was a day in which boys were celebrated. As such, there are traditions that still hold true even to this day; one being, the display of kabuto helmets or special character dolls. Much like the hina dolls, kabuto helmets and character dolls are taken out from storage and displayed for about a month. The characters are from old folk tales or history like Momotaro or Kintaro. Carp streamers are also seen flying in the wind, one representing each boy or child of the household.
All of these items can be found at doll shops depending on the time of year, and symbolize a healthy and successful life for your children. People usually buy these within the first year that a baby is born, so that he or she may celebrate their first ‘Sekku’. Additionally, though traditions are dependent on the family, it is common for only the eldest of each gender in their family to receive a doll. So, for example, only the first born daughter in a family would usually receive the set of hina dolls, and vice versa — only the first born son would usually get a kabuto helmet. These items would also go on to be displayed in the household even when that child becomes an adult and has their own children.
Why the Hayashi Doll Factory?
Despite there being a plethora of doll shops on the same street, the Hayashi Doll Factory has three floors. This means that the amount and variety of dolls that are available is much more plentiful than other shops, and though each shop has its own special charm to it with different items and different back-stories; you really are given a lot of options here. Whether you’re looking for something of a lesser price but of equally good quality or you’re looking for something large and fancy, it is almost certain that this shop will be carrying it. The staff are also able to explain to you how the particular piece is made, what it’s made out of, and the symbolic meaning behind it.
As this store also has its own original pieces custom made, you may also be surprised to hear that some of the items use real gold. There are also many kabuto helmets made to represent famous shogun, so if you’re someone interested in Japanese history, you may find it worth your time to visit this shop.
There is no parking area for the Hayashi Doll Factory so, if driving, you would need to park at one of the nearby paid parking areas and head in the direction of Takasago Street from there.
How to Get There: The Hayashi Doll Factory is approximately 600 meters from Matsumoto Station, and very easy to get to. Leaving through the West exit into Matsumoto City, go down the street between McDonalds and the Big Echo karaoke building. Keep following this road for about 10 minutes, and at the fifth intersection, you should see a big building to your right with a big glass window and the kanji ‘林人形工房’ above it.
Japanese Address: 長野県松本市中央２丁目8−9
Telephone Number: 0263-32-4678 (+81-263-32-4678)
Operating Hours: Mondays – Sundays (10:00 – 18:30)