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Pacifico Yokohama gets dolled up for its Hinamatsuri-display exhibition

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Who says dolls are just for kids? Dolls have a special place in Japanese culture and tradition and are still enjoyed by adults, in particular on Hinamatsuri — Girls’ Day, which is also known as Dolls’ Day and celebrated on March 3.

This weekend, Pacifico Yokohama is holding its annual Japanese-doll exhibition, the largest in Japan, showcasing the work of many famous makers of traditional hina ningyō (Girls’ Day dolls) and gogatsu ningyō (Boys’ Day festival miniature samurai armor sets and dolls).

Hinamatsuri originates from a custom that dates back to ancient China and gained popularity in Japan during the Heian Period (794-1185). It was originally enjoyed by young noble women and girls on New Year’s Day, and involved “playing house” with a male and a female doll set along with matching miniature furniture.

Later, the dolls were used in displays that were often elaborate, featuring numerous characters arranged on a five- or seven-tiered stand. Today, such sets are still given to girls, with the main dolls of the Emperor and Empress sitting at the top and the tiers supporting court ladies and samurai.

For boys, the gogatsu ningyō — miniature samurai helmets and armor — are symbols of strength that are put on display on May 5, known as Kodomo no Hi — Children’s Day and Boys’ Day.

This exhibition is a preview of doll and armor sets, including those made by esteemed makers from Saitama Prefecture — the top producer of hina dolls. For those getting ready for Hinamatsuri or Kodomo no Hi, the sets are also available to buy.

The Pacifico Yokohama Doll Exhibition takes place from Jan. 17 to 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Annex Hall of Pacifico Yokohama in Yokohama. For more information, call 045-228-6603 or visit www.ningyousaiji.com/02.html.