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Kōnosu and the Toyama Memorial Museum of Art are worth visiting in “hina-matsuri” season (Feb. 12 – Mar. 3).

Kōnosu is a small town located in Saitama, and is famous as “Doll Town” because of its traditional craft of dolls named "hina-ningyō".  "hina-ningyō" is a set of dolls displayed at Girl’s Festival called “hina-matsuri”.  Hina” means “tiny” that is derived from a chick.  hina-matsuri” is held on 3rd March every year.  This day is called “Momo-no-sekku” (Seasonal Festival with peach blossoms).

The custom of displaying dolls (“hina-kazari”) begun during Heian-period (about 1,000 years ago).  Heian-period represents the aristocratic culture and society called “miyabi” that is one of Japanese aesthetic ideals equivalent to elegance, refinement or the like.   Therefore, the dolls are of esthetics.  The placement orders of dolls somewhat vary by region.  According to the standard order, the dolls are displayed with two or more tiers covered with hi-mōsen” (red carpet).  Tiers are called “hina-dan”, and the top tier holds two imperial dolls who play the leading part, i.e., “Odairi-sama” (Emperor) and “Ohina-sama” (Empress).  The placement order is, “Odairi-sama” (Emperor) is left-hand, and “Ohina-sama” (Empress) is right-hand with their backs to “byōbu” (a gold folding screen).  Second tier holds “san-nin kanjo” (three court ladies) each holds ritual equipment.  Out of three ladies, only one lady has “ohaguro” (tooth blackening) and without eyebrows.  Third tier holds “go-nin-bayashi” (five musicians) with musical instruments, such as a small drum and a flute”. Other tiers hold other followers and equipments.  Nowadays, the display with three tiers without “hi-mōsen” (red carpet) becomes popular.

Display with three tiers
As of Today (14th February), a huge display of dolls, like a pyramid is exhibited in a Kōnosu City Office, and the whole town is enveloped in a mood of “hina-matsuri” in preparations to greet for many visitors.

Huge display in  Kōnosu City Office
Nearby Kōnosu, the Toyama Memorial Museum of Art is worth visiting.  The Toyama Memorial Museum of Art utilizes a Japanese house formerly owned by Mr. Gen-ichi Toyama (1890-1972), who was a founder of a brokerage firm, “Nikko-Shoken” and famous as a self-made man.  The house was built to order of Mr. Toyama in 1936 according to a traditional architecture at that time and the house was presented to his mother. 

The Toyama Memorial Museum of Art (Main Building)

Display of "hina-ningyō" as one of Toyama’s collection
During “hina-matsuri” season, "hina-ningyō" as one of Toyama’s collection is exhibited in old style in this museum.

Tradition credits a girl of the house leaving the dolls being displayed even after March 3 will fail to get married.

by R. Enomori 

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