Thursday, 12 March 2009


March 3 is Hinamatsuri, the Doll Festival, or Girl's Day in Japan. Displays of traditional dolls get put up in homes, train stations (only in Japan would these be without any security measures!), department stores, and just about everywhere else. Museums (including where I work!) often do exhibits related to dolls, and everything seems to be pink and red.

Wikipedia has a good explanation of the festival and the placement of the different dolls. La Fuji Mama gives a good description of some of the celebrations that are held by families with daughters.

I have a collection of dolls from around the world, packed in boxes at my dad's house. The dolls were bought for me by my dad when he traveled, or when we traveled as a family, a souvenir from each country or region we visited. (I think this was my dad's way of making sure he could get me a souvenir I'd be happy with, as I wasn't always the most traditional of kids... When I was about 7 he went to Israel for a conference. Before he went he asked me what I wanted him to bring me back - figuring I'd ask for a stuffed camel or something. Nope. I wanted a stuffed squirrel. Somehow he managed to find one in the gift shop of one of the airports he transferred through! I did get a camel too. Dad's are amazing, aren't they?)

Anyways... where was I? Ahhh, yes... my doll collection... Since I have a collection, I was naturally interested in Hinamatsuri from the moment I first heard about it. My host family put up an impressive display of dolls and the little 3 year-old knew well enough that these dolls were NOT for playing. The two of us would sit in front of the display and play with other dolls, she'd pause every so often and talk to the empress doll, or show her the toy being played with.

I don't have daughters, nor do I have space for a large display of dolls, but I try to put out some sort of display every year. Last year one of my friends from school gave me a set of emperor and empress dolls she had made from origami. They are beautiful (and fold away flat for storage not taking up much space!) and I was thrilled to have such a special personal display.

the Emperor and Empress (Odairi-sama & Ohina-sama)

The friend made more this year, and I asked her for a set to send to a friend in Canada. Imagine my surprise then, a few days later when she called and said she had something to give me, and could she drop by after work (she works very close to where I live). She arrived and presented me with a red origami envelope box, which turned out to contain a smaller set of emperor and empress dolls along with their three serving girls and five musicians! I am so excited to have my own set, and am already contemplating trying to add a few more pieces myself each year.

the Emperor

the Empress

the whole group

the 5 musicians

small drum player

large drum player

hand drum player



the 3 serving ladies


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I love your origami dolls! Do you know how to make them?

  2. Unfortunately I don't know how to make them... Yet! I'll try to get my friend to teach me next year.

  3. Wow - these are incredible!