Hina Dolls3rd of March was “Girl’s Day” in Japan and when I lived in Tokyo many years ago I became fascinated by the Hina dolls that are traditionally displayed on that day. Hina dolls are sets of ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress and their attendants, all dressed in the court dress of the Heian period (794-1185). They should be set out in specific tiers on a red cloth, together with various accessories that include food and furniture. It is all in miniature, sort of like our doll’s houses, only more exotic.

My family happened to live next door to an old Japanese lady who had the most fabulous set of Hina dolls and she very kindly allowed us gai-jin (foreigners) to come and have a look at it one year. I remember thinking that one day I’d like to own some, but I forgot all about it until I returned to Japan 20 years later and saw an Emperor and Empress for sale in an antique shop. Meanwhile, my fascination for miniature items had made me collect a few bits and pieces already, so that when it came to displaying my dolls, I had some accessories to keep them company. I also had two children (who may or may not have belonged to a Hina set) and two handmaidens with long black hair.

Hina lady attendant

Unlike the Japanese, I can’t bear to put the dolls away each year so I have them on display all the time inside a book case. As you can see from the photo, I don’t have a full set and perhaps I never will, but I’m very pleased that I managed to find some of them at least and if I’m lucky enough to go back to Japan again, I will certainly keep an eye out for more.

Happy belated “Girl’s Day”!