Displaying Dolls for Doll’s Day

Mar 2, 2020 | Spring | 2 comments

The Andoh Family’s full set of HINA NINGYŌ

Just off camera is a wind-up music box that plays Ureshi Hina Matsuri うれしひな祭り

Download a chart explaining each of the dolls, and words to the song.

Hina Matsuri
Doll’s Day

For ancient agrarian societies, quirky winter weather – occasional warm days followed by blizzards and icy rain – was more than just an inconvenience or topic of casual conversation. A sudden sleet storm could mean severe crop damage, even failure. Many ancient cultures developed pre-spring farming rites to insure successful autumn harvests. Indeed, the origins in Japan of Hina Matsuri, Doll’s Day Festival, are linked to such a ritual.

The third day of the third month (originally calculated by the lunar calendar) was believed to be the best time to prepare the earth for new life to grow. Farmers and villagers would make simple paper dolls to which they would “attach” their troubles and fears. They would then float the dolls down rivers beginning to swell with melted snow. By the 17th century, dolls made by townspeople were so beautifully crafted, it seemed a shame to let them float away. The thrifty-minded merchants of Edo (the former name for Tokyo) began to save the dolls, displaying them each year in lieu of sending them downstream.

The full set in the feature photo belongs to my daughter, purchased by her Obaachan (Japanese grandmother) just before her 3rd birthday. Assembling (usually in mid-February) and carefully putting away (on the evening of March 3) the set is a once-a-year labor of love — not unlike Christmas trees with their ornaments.

(left) Life-sized Ichimatsu Ningyō 市松人形 are displayed either on their own, or with other types of dolls in the Sanuki region of Shikoku (current-day Kagawa and parts of Eihime and Tokushima Prefectures). Obaachan (originally from Eihime) also gifted our daughter with an Ichimatsu doll.

(center) In many urban homes cramped for space, a tenugui cloth depicting a full set of dolls is hung in a prominent location in lieu of actual dolls.

(upper right) Nagashi-bina 流し雛 (literally, “float-away dolls”) are still set drifting down rivers in many parts of Japan including the Sendai River in Mochigaséchō, Tottori (鳥取県用瀬町千代川), Mitarashi River Shimogamo Shrine Kyoto (京都の下鴨神社、みたらし川),   and the river in Iwatsuki Castle Ruins Park in Saitama (埼玉県岩槻城址公園).

(lower right) In some parts of Japan Tsurushi Ningyō (Dangling Dolls) are displayed. Most notable are the dangling dolls of Yamagata Prefecture known as Kasa Fuku (山形県傘福), Sagemon dolls from Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県さげもん), and dangling displays in Shizuoka Prefecture called Hina no Tsurushi Kazari.

Join the conversation. Leave a comment or ask a question below.


  1. Kathryn G

    Thank you for your “going viral” update Elizabeth. I think of my friends in Japan even more often these days, and hope for improvement soon. I thought I would pose a question here about shio koji, knowing you might have some information to share. I have been making both shio koji and amazake from dried rice koji. Success with both! Do you have suggestions for the best use of the shio koji? I mainly I have used it for marinating chicken (for katsu) which resulted in a very tender and delicious meal. Also – when making the shio koji, after allowing it to fully ferment, I puree’d the mixture and strained it, but found there was still some hard grit of the dried rice that did not soften. Works fine in the katsu, but not quite as nice in a pickle marinade. I welcome any suggestions, as it is such a fun ingredient to experiment with. Thank you for any insights!

    • Elizabeth Andoh

      Glad to know that my Special Edition newsletter was well received.
      Thank you for your questions and comments regarding SHIO KOJI for use as a marinade and as a pickling agent. First, about texture… even after fully fermenting the rice koji it will still have some hard grains that will not fully break down in the fermenting process; that is “normal” for kome koji. Straining the mixture/mash first (force it through a fine-woven strainer or put it through a food mill) and then pureeing it will probably yield a more uniformly “smooth” mixture. So will using a sieve.

      The other method that can be used to keep graininess away from fish and meat is similar to the method used for marinades of miso: Wrap the fish or meat to be marinated in sarashi cloth (or a double layer of cheesecloth) and submerge it in a tub of the koji mixture. When ready to cook the fish or meat, remove it from its cloth wrap. The tub of marinade can be re-used several times within a period of 2 to 3 weeks IF you follow these kitchen-hygiene rules:

      DRAIN OFF or BLOT UP any ACCUMULATED LIQUID from the tub before storing the koji for re-use.

      REFRIGERATE used mixture in a non-reactive container (glass, ceramic, enamel-lined); LABEL with date and what had been marinated in that mixture. (With each use, the koji will take on some of the odors of the ingredient being submerged in it so assertive fish or gamey meats should be the final items. After marinating them in the twice or trice-used paste, discard the koji paste.)

      NEVER, EVER LICK or taste the marinade after it has been used!

Submit a Comment

Shaping Rice

Shaping Rice

Making bale-shaped rice logs 俵型 TAWARA-GATA The Japanese often serve cooked rice at room temperature, packing it in obentō lunch boxes, or making it part of a buffet-like spread to feed a large crowd. At such times, the cooked rice is likely to be pressed, by hand or...

read more
Rolled Omelets, Two Ways

Rolled Omelets, Two Ways

Thick Rolled Omelet  Atsu Tamago Yaki厚玉子焼き A classic in the washoku kitchen, thick, rolled omelets are made by cooking a seasoned egg mixture, layer by layer, in a pan – preferably a square or rectangular-shaped one. In and around Tokyo, the egg mixture is rather...

The Japanese Culinary “Alphabet” SA, SHI, SU, SÉ , SO

The Japanese Culinary “Alphabet” SA, SHI, SU, SÉ , SO

Sa = sato (sugar); saké also begins with “sa”; Shi = shio (salt); Su = su (vinegar); Sé = sé is currently pronounced shō and stands for shōyu or soy sauce; So ­= misoThe Japanese Culinary "Alphabet" To maximize flavor and achieve tenderness with minimal cooking time...



Fuki no Tō   蕗の薹BUTTERBUR  (Petasites japonicas) Sansai, literally “mountain vegetables,” are foraged from woodland areas in various parts of Japan as winter thaws into spring. When sansai dishes appear at table, it signals the start of culinary spring fever: an...



Salmon Saké Kasu Chowder 粕汁SAKÉ KASU-JIRU A belly-warming salmon and root vegetable chowder, shaké no kasu-jiru, is standard wintertime fare throughout Japan’s northeastern region, the Tohoku. Every household seems to have its own rendition, but with this master...

More Kitchen Culture