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!
Hinematsuri Event in Fukuoka and Kyushu
• Yanagawa City: Yanagawa Hina Matsuri & Sagemon Meguri
• Hakata-ku: Hinamatsuri Exhibition at Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan
• Asakura City: Hina Meguri in the Ancient Capital Akizuki
• Ukiha City: Chikugo Yoshii Ohinasama Meguri
• Yame City: Yame Bonbori Festival
• Kitakyushu City: Mojiko Retro Hina Matsuri
• Iizuka City: Iizuka Hina Matsuri
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. On Mar. 21 (Tue.), shutterbugs are drawn to Yanagawa from across the land for the Ohina-sama Water Parade: 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. 26 in case of inclement weather.)
• 2/11 (Sat., hol.) ~ 4/3 (Mon.)
• Free (some venues charge entry fees)
• Yanagawa city area, Yanagawa Shopping Arcade etc. (Sagemon Meguri official map PDF)
• 0944-74-0891 (Yanagawa City Tourist Association)
Kyushu Live – Yanagawa, Princess Water Parade (3/21/2021)
Hinamatsuri Exhibition at Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan
Celebrate this year’s Doll’s Festival at Hakata Machiya! Be sure to check out the dolls on the second floor of the Exhibition Hall. Visitors can also find out more about the tools used in the doll-making process and take photographs of the exhibits during the festival! Exhibits include explanations in English and Japanese.
• 3/1 (Wed.) ~ 4/3 (Mon.)
• 10:00~18:00 (last entry 17:30)
• Closed: 4th Mon. of the month (or the following weekday if the Mon. is a national holiday)
• Exhibition Hall ¥200, free of Machiya Hall
• Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan
• 6-10 Reisenmachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Hina Meguri in the Ancient Capital Akizuki
Akizuki, dotted with the ruins of Akizuki Castle and other gates and residences designated as cultural assets, is an elegant town that once prospered as a castle town. During the hina decoration season, historic hina dolls are displayed throughout the town and open to the public, so you can enjoy “Hina Meguri” while strolling the streets. This year, there are 28 displays. Among them, the display of more than 600 Hina dolls donated by citizens on the 21 stone steps in front of the Nagayamon Gate of Akizuki Castle Ruins, which are used as a platform for displaying Hina dolls, is particularly worth seeing
*A display on the stone steps will be exhibited only on Sat., Sun., and hol. during the period and on March 3 from 10:00 to 16:00 (in case of rain, the exhibition will be cancelled).
• 2/11 (Sat., hol.) ~ 3/5 (Sun.)
• Free (some facilities require a fee)
• Venues: Nagayamon Gate of Akizuki Castle Ruins, the castle town of Akizuki (Akizuki, Asakura City / Akizukinotori) and more 28 locations (Hinameguri Map official PDF)
• 0946-24-6758 (Asakura 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.
• 2/11 (Sat., hol.) ~ 3/21 (Tue., hol.)
• Free entry
• Yoshii-machi, Ukiha City, Fukuoka (Ohinasama Meguri official map PDF)
• 0943-76-3980 (Kanko Kaikan Kura)
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. 26 (Sun.) from 14:00, a memorial service will be held at Fukushima Hachimangu Shrine to express gratitude to the hina dolls that have completed their roles (free viewing).
• 2/19 (Sun.) ~ 3/12 (Sun.)
• Free entry
• Venues: Around the Yame Fukushima shirakabe (white-walled building area)
(Ohinasama Meguri official map)
• 0943-22-6644 (Yame City Tourism Association)
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 and dolls from the Showa and Taisho periods (1912~89) are displayed at Sankiro. If you show the leaflet at the participating sweets shops in the Mojiko Retro area, you will get a gift.
• 2/4 (Sat.) ~ 3/5 (Sun.)
• Free entry
• Venues: Sankiro (Closed: Mon.), Old Moji Customs, Sakae-machi Gintengai and more
• 093-332-0106 (Mojiko Retro Club)
Iizuka Hina Matsuri
Iizuka Hina Matsuri is one of Japan’s biggest zashikibina (hina dolls arranged around a miniature festival scene)! At the old Residence of Ito Denemon, which was recently designated as a national important cultural property in December 2020, the 20 tatami mats of the tatami room are decorated with Hina dolls, the largest in Japan. This year’s theme is “Colorful Hina Dolls: Japanese Festivals that Excite the Heart,” and the dolls will depict the lively enjoyment of festivals such as Yamakasa in Hakata, Nebuta in Aomori, and Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada, Osaka.
• 2/4 (Sat.) ~ 3/21 (Tue., hol.) *Times vary by venue. Check the official web page.
• Venues: Old Residence of Ito Denemon, Iizuka City Historical Museum, and more (Iizuka City guide map PDF)
• 0948-22-3511 (Iizuka Tourism Association)
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 Prefecture) and dolls wearing costumes bearing the Nabeshima family’s signature pattern, Nabeshima komon. 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. On Sat., Sun., and holidays during the period, a bus service is available every 20 min. (¥180 for adults).
• 2/11 (Sat., hol.) ~ 3/21 (Tue.,hol.)
• 10:00~17:00 (last entry 16:30)
• Chokokan only: ¥500, Cultural Museum only: ¥400, JHS and under: Free
• Venues: Saga City Cultural Museum, The Museum Chokokan Nabeshima and more (official PDF map)
• 0952-20-2200 (Saga Tourism Association)
Arita Hina no Yakimono Festival
In the ceramic town of Arita, the Hina Doll Festival, Arita-yaki dolls with lustrous skin and delicate paintings decorate the town. At Arita Sera, The world’s largest porcelain seven-tiered Hinamatsuri dolls were created over a period of three years, and at the Arita Kan, you can see dolls created respectively by Kakiemon Kiln and Koransha, which represent Arita Town, and by Meissen Porcelain Works in Germany, a sister city of Arita Town. On Sat., Sun., and holidays during the period, a guided tour bus of Arita’s sightseeing town center will operate twice a day (in Japanese only, free of charge).
• 2/4 (Sat.) ~ 3/12 (Sun.)
• Free entry
• Venues: various places in Arita Town, Arita Kan, Arita Será (official map PDF)
• 0955-43-2121 (Arita Tourism 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 Edo period. Many of the dolls on display here also date back to that time! There are around 26 venues in total 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). The opening event will be held on Feb. 11 (Sat., hol.) at the Sakashita plaza, with a demonstration and free pongashi (Japanese puffed rice) distribution (12:00, 13:00, 14:00, cancelled in case of rain).
Photo from Kitsuki Tourism Organization
• 2/11 (Sat., hol) ~ 3/12 (Sun.)
• 26 locations within Kitsuki Castle Town area, Oita (Official Google Map)
• 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. 5 (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.
• 2/15 (Wed.) ~ 3/31 (Thu.) *venues vary by date
• Free entry (some venues charge entry fees)
• Venues in Mameda-machi area and Kuma area, Hita City, Oita and more 14 venues
• 0973-22-2036 (Hita Tourism Association)
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. During the festival, Usuki Hina dolls handmade by citizens will be displayed at four venues.
• 2/10 (Fri.) ~ 3/12 (Sun.)
• Free entry
• Venues: Usuki Tourism and Community Plaza, Sala de Usuki, Kuge no Okura, Former Shinkoji Temple (Hina Meguri PDF Map)
• 0972-64-7130 (Usuki Hina Meguri Executive Committee Secretariat)
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 Feb. 2023.
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