Photo:Hideya HAMANO on Flickr

Katsuura Big Hina Matsuri

It’s February! And so our Hina ningyo (doll) is out again. The Empress and Emperor with the ladies-in-waiting.


In Japanese tradition, the Hina matsuri or Doll Festival or Girls’ Day is celebrated every March 3 to wish good health and a happy life to the house’ little girl/s. People put out their heirloom display of dolls attired in costumes typical during the Heian Period. Compact sets (albeit no less expensive!) have recently become popular. Traditionally however, these dolls are displayed in tiers, according to social levels during the Heian Court Period; the top tier occupied of course by the Emperor and Empress.

The dolls are so pretty to behold and arrayed in much detail that one would want to have it on display for the rest of the year. It is tradition however to put the dolls to storage (with much ceremony and preservation while people are at it!) right after the festival. Old superstition has it that families who are slow in putting back their hina ningyo after the festival would have difficulties marrying off their daughters. Now, before you go over your contacts list to look for Japanese friends with unmarried/little daughters, thankfully, Katsuura City has opened up their doors and decided to put up their heirlooms on display for everyone to behold.

The Katsuura Big Hina Festival started back in 2001 and has since been making visitors in awe. We visited Katsuura back in 2008 and “awed” is almost an understatement.

Upon arrival, right in front of the station, you’d see this impressive collection right way. You’d probably think the visit is already worth it, even from this alone.


But do look on, walk on, and be amazed some more. This display is pretty overwhelming, I agree. They had this stairway lighted up at dusk, a sight we are yet to see.


On some displays, one can see the amazing detail up close. This one is up for sale on one of the display halls in Katsuura.


Court musicians of the Heian Period, all puffed up.


The most common displays were the traditional 5-tiered or 7-tiered hina ningyo.


But some had gone creative as well. This one’s creative and quite charming. The court officials looked like they’ve had too much sake though.


The famous Japanese cartoon characters of Anpanman Show are also on display. I bet Dokin-chan (orange character on leftmost of second from top tier) would like to be the Empress, with Shokupanman (the one who looks like a piece of a loaf bread on leftmost of third from top tier) as the Emperor.


It’s been seven years since we last visited Katsuura. I think it’s high time we go back there for this year’s Big Hina Festival! See you there and then!

For the year 2015, the Katsuura Big Hina Doll Festival will be held from February 20 (Friday) to March 3 (Tuesday). See Katsuura’s website (in Japanese) for this festival :

For the detailed activities during the festival, see this page (also in Japanese):

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