Every year, families across Japan celebrate Hina Matsuri, otherwise known as Girls’ Day or Doll’s Day. This traditional festival, which takes place on Mar. 3, is an occasion to pray for the well-being and prosperity of little girls. It is thought that the festival has its roots in an ancient purification ceremony, in which dolls were floated down the river, taking all of the girls’ bad luck with them.
In the Edo period, Hina Matsuri was one of several sekku (seasonal festivals) celebrated in the Imperial Court, all of which were and still are marked by the enjoyment of specific food and drink. For Hina Matsuri, many indulge in hishi mochi (pink, white and green rhomboid-shaped rice cakes), shirozake (sweet white sake), chirashizushi (scattered sushi) and hamaguri no osuimono (clear clam soup). Many begin displaying their dolls from around risshun (Feb. 4), often on platforms covered in red carpet. Family dolls are hastily hidden on Mar. 4: it is said that if you put a girl’s dolls away after Hina Matsuri ends, she will marry late in life.
It is only recently that public venues have begun displaying dolls as well, focusing on dolls which express the traditions and culture of the area. These displays attract Japanese and non-Japanese tourists alike, and there are often special workshops and events held over February and March. Why not take a day trip to one of the locations in our guide? Enjoy the first days of spring and the traditional dolls and decorations native to each area!
Mojiko Retro Hina Matsuri
Celebrate Girls’ Day at Mojiko Retro, the Meiji-era port town! Enjoy viewing the pretty, historical buildings and the hina doll displays at various locations throughout town: Meiji-period dolls (1868~1912) are exhibited at the Old Moji Customs Building, Taisho-era hina dolls (1912~26) are on show at the Old Moji Mitsui Club, and dolls from the Showa and Taisho periods (1912~89) are displayed at Sankiro. There are also approximately 100 sagemon (hanging mobiles made for a baby girl’s first Hina Matsuri) on display from Feb. 8 to Feb. 21. On Mar. 3, explore the Sankiro Hall and nearby stores as well as the Sakae-machi Shopping Arcade, which will also have hina doll displays.
Photos: Mojiko Retro Club
• 2/2 (Sat.) ~ 3/3 (Sun.)
Sankiro (3-6-8 Kiyotaki, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka. *Closed: Mon.)
Old Moji Customs (1-24 Higashiminato-machi, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka)
Old Moji Mitsui Club (7-1 Minato-machi, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka)
Old JR Kyushu Headquarters Building (1-6-2 Nishikaigan, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka)
Sakae-machi Gintengai (Sakae-machi, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka)
• 093-332-0106 (Mojiko Retro Club)
Iizuka Hina Matsuri
Don’t miss your chance to see one of Japan’s biggest zashikibina (hina dolls arranged around a miniature festival scene)! The display theme is “Heian Dream”, inviting you into a picturesque Heian period tableau with the dolls dressed and arranged in scenes from ‘The Tale of Genji’. Don’t miss the popular hina matsuri exhibit of cats at Kaho Theater too! In total, there are 17 doll displays being held in Iizuka, including at Iizuka City History Museum.
Photo: Iizuka Tourism Association
• 2/2 (Sat.) ~ 3/26 (Tue.) *Times vary by venue
• Mostly free (some venues charge entry fees)
Old Residence of Ito Denemon (300 Kobukuro, Iizuka City, Fukuoka) ¥300
Kaho Theater (5-23 Iizuka, Iizuka City, Fukuoka) ¥400
Aso Villa of Oura (1060 Tateiwa, Iizuka City, Fukuoka)
Iizuka City Historical Museum (959-1 Kayanomori, Iizuka City, Fukuoka) ¥220
Honmachi Shotengai (8-28 Honmachi, Iizuka City, Fukuoka)
• 0948-22-3511 (Iizuka Tourism Association)
Chikugo Yoshii Ohinasama Meguri
Here there are several venues, including residences and shops, that display hina dolls, ranging from Edo-period dolls (1603-1868) to contemporary models. The area is famous for the Shirakabe Dozo district, where the river is lined by attractive former warehouses, all with traditional wood and white plaster exteriors. The doll displays of Ukiha usually feature two types of dolls: okiage (paper cut-outs covered in cotton and wrapped in fabric) and hakobina (dolls in individual display cases). The doll displays are surrounded by handmade decorations inspired by kabuki or ukiyo-e. Tours of the area by rickshaw are also available (Sundays only), and visitors can also join a walking tour called Ukiha Sweets Meguri in which they can enjoy sweets in 15 participating confectionery shops. On Mar. 10 (Sun.) and 24 (Sun.) a spring tea ceremony (pay what you can) will run from 12:00 to 15:00.
Photo: Ukiha City Promotion Team
• 2/11 (Mon., hol.) ~ 4/3 (Wed.)
• Rickshaw: Shirakabe area tour (15 min., ¥500/person)
• Yoshii-machi, Ukiha City, Fukuoka
• 0943-76-3980 (Ukiha City Sightseeing Information)
Yanagawa Hina Matsuri & Sagemon Meguri
At this time of year, Yanagawa is full of sagemon, a traditional craft native to the area. Sagemon are traditional hanging mobiles, given to newborn baby girls for their first Hina Matsuri. When walking through the town, look out for pink flags – these mark the locations where you can view sagemon. Mar. 9 (Sat.) and 10 (Sun.) is Kimono Biyori: from 10:00~15:00, many stroll around town in kimono. Come in kimono to join lucky draws and receive special freebies such as nail salon service and more. On Mar. 17 (Sun.), shutterbugs are drawn to Yanagawa from across the land for the Ohina-sama Water Parade: 12 river boats float down the river, each holding a bevy of little girls in bright kimono (along with their mothers), but only one also transports volunteers dressed up as the emperor and empress. (*The Ohina-sama Water Parade will be moved to Mar. 24 in case of inclement weather.)
Photo: Yanagawa City
• 2/11 (Sat., Hol.) ~ 4/3 (Mon.)
• Free (some venues charge entry fees)
• Yanagawa city area, Yanagawa Shopping Arcade (83-2 Kyo-machi, Yanagawa City, Fukuoka), etc.
• 0944-74-0891 (Yanagawa City Tourist Association)
Yame Bonbori Festival
Yame is not only known for its paper, lanterns, Buddhist altars and wax, it’s also known for producing some of Kyushu’s best hina dolls. Until the mid 1950s, Yame specialized in making hakobina, dolls in special display boxes, but nowadays they make all kinds of dolls, many of which are displayed at the Yame Doll Hall – including dolls that daughters of the Tokugawa Shogun families took with them when they got married. Over 100 different locations display hina dolls, and they can be recognized by rose-colored lanterns hanging outside. On Feb. 17 (Sun.) and Mar. 3 (Sun.) at 10:00, you can watch a traditional Japanese wedding, for which the bride and groom wear traditional outfits; a junihitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono) for the bride, and sokutai (traditional robe) for the groom. The wedding parade starts at 11:00. And on Mar. 9 (Sat.) at 18:00, don’t miss the bamboo illuminations called Yoinohina at the Fukushima Hachimangu Shrine.
Photos: Yame City Tourism Association
• 2/10 (Sun.) ~ 3/10 (Sun.)
• Venues: Around the Yame Fukushima shirakabe (white-walled building area)
• 0943-22-6644 (Yame City Tourism Association)
Kusano no Hina Matsuri
Twelve venues display nostalgia-inducing dolls of four different varieties: okiage (paper cut-outs decorated in pretty cloth), ishobina (dolls in rich costume) and kumikihina (hina dolls carved from wood). There are also tsubakihina: doll displays composed of camellia flowers instead of dolls (these are special to Kurume). The area boasts buildings dating back to the Edo period (when it was a simple inn town), so there’s plenty to see besides the dolls.
• 2/23 (Sat.) ~ 4/7 (Sun.)
• Free (some venues charge entry fees)
Yamatoya (240 Kusano-machi Kotobayashi, Kurume City, Fukuoka)
Residence of Kanji Ueno (277 Kusano-machi Kotobayashi, Kurume City, Fukuoka. *Starts from 2/24~)
Kusano Kumiki Kobo (798-1 Kusano-machi Kusano, Kurume City, Fukuoka)
Gallery Sankirai (313 Kusano-machi Kusano, Kurume City, Fukuoka)
Kusano History Museum (411-1 Kusano-machi Kusano, Kurume City, Fukuoka)
Kurume World Camellia Museum (490-2 Kusano-machi Yahagi, Kurume City, Fukuoka)
• 0942-47-4410 (Kusano History Museum)
Usuki Hina Meguri
According to old manuscripts, during the revolution of the Tempo era (1841~43) the decoration of hina dolls was prohibited in the Usuki Domain in an attempt to enforce a frugal lifestyle on the people. Parents were reduced to secretly making simple dolls out of paper, so that they could still wish for the well-being of their daughters on Hina Matsuri. This story inspired Usuki Hina Meguri: back in 2006, a group of volunteers wanted to recreate the dolls of this period, but the original methods had been forgotten over time. So they used tachibina (standing dolls, the original kind of hina doll) as a starting point to create something that comes close, which are now called Usukibina. Four venues display the dolls, and there are also koto performances and tea ceremonies. On Sundays (Feb. 10, 17, and 24) at 13:00, you can take an Usukibina-making lesson at the Usuki Tourism and Community Plaza (¥1,000; register on the day).
Photo: Usuki Tourism Association
• 2/8 (Fri.) ~ 3/17 (Sun.)
Usuki Tourism and Community Plaza (100-2 Usuki, Usuki City, Oita)
Old Shinkoji Temple (Niouza, Usuki City, Oita)
Kuge no Okura (Hama-machi, Usuki City, Oita)
Sala de Usuki (210-3 Usuki, Usuki City, Oita)
• 0972-64-7130 (Usuki City Tourist Information Association)
Kitsuki Castle Town Walk and Doll Tour
The castle town of Kitsuki has been officially designated a “historical town that suits kimono well”, because the area maintains the feel of the Edo-period. Many of the dolls on display here also date back to this time! There are around 30 venues holding hina doll displays, with dolls from many different time periods, including modern day ceramic ones. Some venues charge an entrance fee, but if you are wearing a kimono you can enter any venue for free. Local shop Warakuan is offering kimono rental for ¥3,500 (reservations prioritized). It’s also free to take part in the Mizukakebina at Tenmansha Shrine (running every Sunday during the event period between 13:00 and 15:00): participants pour water over the enshrined doll in order to purify the doll and themselves.
Photos: Kitsuki Tourism Association
• 2/23 (Sat.) ~ 3/24 (Sun.)
• Free (only public cultural venues charge entry fees; ¥800 ticket to go around 7 of the venues)
28 locations within Kitsuki Castle Town area
Yamaga region, Kitsuki City: Oita Agricultural Park (1-1 Hisashi, Yamaga-machi, Kitsuki City, Oita), Kamura no Sato (3792-1 Kugino, Yamaga-machi, Kitsuki City, Oita)
• 0978-63-0100 (Kitsuki Tourism Organization)
Tenryo Hita Ohina Matsuri
During the Edo period, Hita was one of first towns in Kyushu to flourish, and this is reflected in the luxurious Edo-period hina dolls still being displayed today. Most of the venues are located in the Mameda-machi and Kuma-machi areas, and a must-see spot is Kusano Honke (a nationally designated Important Cultural Property). Look out for the elegant okiage! On Mar. 3 (Sun.) between 10:00 and 14:00, take part in Mameda Nagashibina at Keirinso Park: write a wish on a kamibina (paper doll) and send it down the river to purify yourself. Whilst you’re in the area, why not buy a coupon pack (¥1,500, valid Feb. 15 to Mar. 31) from the Hita City Tourist Information Center? Each pack contains three coupons, which you can use for a day’s bicycle rental, entry to 13 different facilities in the area, and bathing at those facilities with a sento (public bath).
Photos: Hita Tourism Association
• 2/15 (Fri.) ~ 3/31 (Sun.) *venues vary by date
• Free (some venues charge entry fees)
• Venues in Mameda-machi area, Hita
Kusano Honke (11-4 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita): ¥550/person, ¥450/group (min. 20 people)
Kuncho Sake Breweries Factory and Museum (6-31 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita): Free
Shimaya Honke (14-5 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita): Free
Kurofuneya (1-5-10 Sanbonmatsu, Hita City, Oita): Free
Tenryo Hita Museum (11-7 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita): ¥200/person *special fee during event period
Tenryo Hina Goten (13-6 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita), ¥300/person, ¥200/group (min. 20 people)
Nihongankan (4-15 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita), ¥350/person, ¥300/group (min. 15 people)
Tenryo Hita Hakimono Museum (3-11 Mameda-machi, Hita City, Oita): Free
• Venues in Kuma, Otsuru and Tenryo areas
Shunkoen (1-3-3 Kuma, Hita City, Oita): Free
Temari Kobo & Chochin Kobo (2-6-10 Kuma, Hita City, Oita): Free (groups must call ahead)
Residence of Hara Jirozaemon (5-4 Nakahon-machi, Hita City, Oita): Free
Residence of Goto Yamakichi (2-4-13 Kuma, Hita City, Oita): ¥200/person (HS and younger: Free), ¥150/group (min. 15 people)
Morikiku (2-8-13 Kuma, Hita City, Oita): Free
Seikei Bunko (Inoue Brewery, 2299 Otsuru-machi, Hita City, Oita), ¥300/person (HS and younger: Free), ¥250/group (min. 20 people)
• 0973-57-2166 (Hita Tourism Association, Amagase Branch)
Nakatsu Castle Town Hina Matsuri
Nakatsu is not just famous for its karaage, it also boasts an important landmark, Nakatsu Castle, which dates back to 1588. On Mar. 2 (Sat.) and 3 (Sun.), the castle will host a hinakazari (hina doll arrangement) composed of actual people sitting in costume (10:30~14:50). Apply in advance if you want to be one of the dolls onstage! You can also wear a full hina doll costume and have your photo taken at the shrine altar of Okudaira Shrine nearby (¥3,000, three-day advance reservation required). During the festival period there will be more events for visitors to enjoy!
• 2/16 (Sat.) ~ 3/10 (Sun.)
• Free (some venues charge entry fees)
Nambu Machinami Exchange Hall (1828 Nakatsu City, Oita)
Nakatsu Castle (Honmaru, Nino-cho, Nakatsu City, Oita)
Yukichi Fukuzawa Memorial Museum (586 Rusui-machi, Nakatsu City, Oita)
Oe Doctor Historical Museum (906 Takajo-machi, Nakatsu City, Oita)
Murakami Doctor Historical Museum (1780 Nakatsu City, Oita)
• 0979-64-6565 (Nakatsu Yabakei Tourist Information Center)
Saga Joka Hina Matsuri
In the town of Saga, several venues are showing off hina dolls that date all the way back to the Meiji Period. View dolls wearing costumes made from Saga nishiki (a form of brocading technique from Saga Pref.) and dolls wearing costumes bearing the Nabeshima family’s signature pattern, Nabeshima komon. During the event period, a tour bus will run through the area (¥150/ride). In the town, the road Nagasaki Kaido gained the nickname “Sugar Road” because it was used to transport sugar throughout the country; this led to many confectioners setting up shop along the road. To celebrate this part of the area’s history, maruboro (a kind of Japanese confection) are on sale (amongst other kinds of traditional sweets), and maruboro-making demonstrations are available.
Photo: Saga Tourism Association
• 2/11 (Mon., hol.) ~ 3/31 (Sun.)
• Chokokan and Cultural Museum: ¥600, Chokokan only: ¥300, Cultural Museum only: ¥400, ES and under: Free (*All other venues are free to enter)
The Museum Chokokan Nabeshima (2-5-22 Matsubara, Saga City, Saga)
Saga City Cultural Museum (2-9 Yanagi-cho, Saga City, Saga)
• 0952-20-2200 (Saga Tourism Association)
NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us. This report was originally written in February 2017.
Originally written in February 2017, updated Jan. 2019.
Copyright Fukuoka Now – including all text, photos and illustrations. Permission required to re-use in any form. Meanwhile, feel free to link to to this page.