The doll festival is a harbinger of spring in Hita’s Tenryo district. The vividly-colored, elaborate dolls and their accoutrements, which were made from the Edo period to the Meiji era, are displayed throughout the area and attract tourists from all over Kyushu. The exhibitions are held in 20 locations in Mameda-machi and Kuma-machi on either side of the JR Hita Station, and the colorful doll festival atmosphere brightens the neighborhood in a way evocative of ages past.
The dolls on display have been well preserved by commercial establishments in the city. They present an excellent opportunity to see the inherent beauty of traditional crafts, particularly the attractive coloring of the clothing, the workmanship of the accessories, and the unique expression on each doll’s face.
The exhibition area itself has many buildings dating from the Edo period and the Meiji era. Mameda has been designated an important traditional architectural preservation district by the national government. Combined with the doll exhibits, the buildings offer visitors a stately sense of history. Hita is dotted with three-story wood frame buildings that date back three centuries, so visitors can also enjoy the street scenes. Other events are held in conjunction with the doll festival featuring handmade Japanese confections and matcha tea in the Honjo-machi commercial district (3-2 Honjo-machi, 0973-22-2216) and the Kizan-machi commercial district (5-11 Kizan-machi, 0973-22-2800). They’re definitely worth the trip.
Why a Doll Festival in Hita?
The origins of the Hita doll festival date back to the days when the area was a thriving center of government, economics, and culture. It was the headquarters of the Saigokusuji Gundai, one of the four major regional administrators responsible for tax collection and law and order for Shogunal land (tenryo) during the Edo period. In those days, moneylenders and other businesses prospered. These moneylenders used the public funds of the Shogunate in their business. Hita was the administrative center for the Shogunal land, so all the taxes collected in those regions were remitted to the city. This money was lent to the feudal lord and public enterprises to generate profits off the interest, which created a flourishing commercial environment in the town.
A local culture arose in the town through the interaction of people, trade, and customs, and the well-to-do merchants began to buy works of art from Edo and Osaka. This artwork included the hina dolls and their accessories. The families that owned these dolls treasured and carefully preserved them, and publicly displayed them on March 3 during the Doll Festival. The festival has become one of the most well-known of its type. The dolls are shown with the wish for the sound growth of the children in the household. Visitors to the event get the opportunity to relive Edo culture in Hita as well as witness a reminder of warm parental love.
Where to See Doll Exhibitions
Establishments marked with an asterisk have exhibitions all year round
Kuncho Shukan (sake brewer), Nihongan-kan (museum), Hirose Shiryokan (museum)*, Kusano Honke (family home), Shizantei Kaikokan (restaurant and museum)*, Tenryo Hina Jinya (museum)*, Shimaya Honke (family home)
Onta Kotokan (ceramics exhibition room), Harajirozaemonke (family home), Okurake (family home), Shunkoen (restaurant), Yamakichi Gotoke (family home), Sennen-ji (temple), Hita Gion Yamaboko Kaikan (festival center)*, and Tanaka-ya Saketen (liquor store) / Temari-kan (museum)*
The Kizan-machi and Honjo-machi Commercial Districts
Mr. Watakichi, the Confection Peddler
During the festival, Mr. Watakichi appears in Mameda-machi to sell confections. He dispenses fascinating nuggets of local information as he walks through the neighborhood selling his sweets. You can recognize him by his Edo period dress and the pole across his shoulder, which he uses to carry the confections.
Formerly one of the world’s richest gold mines, 800 meters of the 110-kilometer shaft has been rebuilt into a sightseeing course featuring the subterranean world. Visitors can try their hand at prospecting for gold for a 600 fee. This involves filling a plate with sand and water, swishing it around, and patiently looking for treasure, an activity that engrosses both children and adults.
Michi-no-Eki Taio Kinzan
3750 Gose, Nakatsu-mura, Hita
09:00 ~ 17:00
Closed: First Mon. ~ Fri. in February
About one hour by car from the Hita interchange on the Oita Expressway
Hita Hot Springs
The Hita hot springs area consists of seven ryokan – Japanese inns – with spas located along the Mikuma River upstream from the Chikugo River. In addition to the spa waters, visitors can enjoy the relaxed riverside atmosphere, including dinner on special excursion boats, or watching specially-trained cormorants catch fish (from mid-May to the end of October). It’s not necessary to spend the night at the ryokan to use their hot spring facilities – they’re also open to visitors who come just for a bath. Also known as the Kodakara Hot Springs, this is also a pleasant area for a stroll.
City of Hita Tourism Promotion Department
Contact Hita Tourism Association
GIFTS AND SOUVENIRS
Hita Dorei (Clay bells)
250 yen ~
These Hita earthenware bells are traditional toys made in the shapes of the animals representing the Oriental zodiac, baby chicks, and other designs. They are noted for their round, plump shapes and bright colors. They come in different sizes and are hung on the ends of rafters or attached to wallets. Legend has it that ringing the bells wards off evil spirits.
10-3 Mameda-machi, Hita
Closed: Thu. (but open all week during the festival)
Yokan (Bean Jelly)
1,300 yen ~
This high quality yokan (azuki bean jelly) is made by adding kanten (edible seaweed) to the finest bean paste. It is sold in nine different sizes, and the smooth and shiny black surface has quite a visual impact. The yokan is packaged in the traditional style, using wood cut into extremely thin slices. The surface gets harder as the confection ages, giving it a delightful crunchy texture.
Akashi Hita Yokan Honpo
8-15 Mameda-machi, Hita
Closed: Thu. (but open all week during the festival)
About 50 min. / 1,650 yen
Dazaifu Interchange – Kyushu Expressway/Oita Expressway (45 min. / 1,650 yen) – Hita Interchange
1 hr. 20 min. / 3,020 yen
JR Hakata Stn. – Kagoshima Main Line / Kyudai Main Line (1 hr. 20 min. yen) – Get off at JR Hita Stn.
1 hr. 20 min. / 1,750 yen
Tenjin Bus Center (1 hr. 20 min. / 1,750 yen) Hita Bus Center
Tourism Promotion Department, City of Hita
Hita Tourism Association
Tenryo Hita Doll Festival
February 15 ~ March 31
Hita, Mameda-machi, Kuma-machi