Every year on Mar. 3, Hina (Doll) Festivals are held to pray for the health of young girls. The day is known as Momo no Sekku, a date that traditionally marked the coming of spring. The custom is said to have begun in the Heian period (794-1185) when people would try to drive away evil spirits by transferring them to dolls. Although the custom varies throughout Japan, families with young girls still display dolls today. Dolls were set up in early February on risshun (“onset of spring”) in the old calendar, and people celebrate by eating three mochi rice cakes in different colors: green, pink and white. In Yanagawa, the first Hina Festival for a baby girl is marked with sagemon, colorful hanging decorations that each family has passed down over generations.
In Yanagawa, a girl’s first Hina Festival is an important occasion. Sagemon are hung next to the doll stand, and a big celebration is held to pray for the child’s health. The tradition began at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), when people who had baby girls began making decorations from cloth scraps and hanging them on either side of the doll stand. In Yanagawa, each sagemon has 49 (7×7) decorations (seven is a lucky number), which are often in the shape of auspicious creatures, such as rabbits and cranes. Nowadays, when spring draws near, everyone in town hangs the colorful sagemon in their homes and shops, making for a sight to behold.
• 2/11 (Mon., hol.) ~ 4/3 (Wed.)
• Viewing spots have pink flags outside
• Sagemon sightseeing map (PDF)
Ohina-sama Water Parade
During the Ohina-sama Water Parade, young girls dressed in kimono ride down canals in boats decorated with hina dolls. About 200 brightly dressed girls and their mothers glide along downtown Yanagawa’s canals, which are also decked out with sagemon, in nearly a dozen riverboats. The boats float at a leisurely pace, making the parade a popular destination for shutterbugs looking to snap some pictures from the banks.
• 3/17 (Sun.) *in case of rain: 3/24 (Sun.)
Floats decorated with sagemon are paraded through the streets accompanied by costumed officials and musicians.
• 3/3 (Sun.)
• From Hiyoshi Shrine (7 Sakamoto-machi, Yanagawa City) to Mihashira Shrine.
Yanagawa Canal Boat Cruising
Local oarsmen use a single pole to gently glide the punts along a four and a half kilometer course of canals. During this season, you can enjoy ohanami (cherry blossom viewing) while cruising down the canal.
• Open every day
• Adult: ¥1,600, 5 y.o. ~ ES: ¥820
• Four boat launches within a 10 min. walk from Nishitetsu Yanagawa Sta.
• 0944-74-0891 (Yanagawa City Tourist Information Center)
Kimono Day – a Great Chance for Photos!
Mar. 9 and 10 is Yanagawa Kimono Day—when almost everyone in town dons a kimono! Visitors who arrive in town wearing a kimono can enjoy several perks.
• Fukuoka Airport – (Subway 10 min.) – Tenjin Sta. (Walk 5 min.) – Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin Sta. – (Nishitetsu Omuta line 50 min.) – Nishitetsu Yanagawa Sta.
• Hakata Sta. – (Subway 5 min.) – Tenjin Sta. (Walk 5 min.) – Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin Sta. – (Nishitetsu Omuta Line 50 min.) – Nishitetsu Yanagawa Sta.
Find Nishitetsu’s official timetables here.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn243, Mar. 2019)