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Friday, March 2, 2012

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Welcome to the doll house: Visitors look at a hina doll display at Konosu City Hall.

Doll displays celebrate Japan's girls

Staff writer

Japanese families have traditionally used dolls to decorate their homes ahead of March 3 Girls' Day celebrations.

Known as the hina matsuri (doll festival) it's a time to pray for the health and welfare of the nation's daughters. If you don't have hina dolls in your home, don't worry. You can still take part in the tradition if you head out to Konosu, Saitama Prefecture.

Konosu, which has a history as a doll-making center that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867), vows to impress visitors with its gigantic set made up of a 31-step, red-carpeted staircase decked with 1,807 traditional ornamental dolls. The 7-meter-tall pyramid, placed inside City Hall, includes figures of the Emperor, Empress, servants and musicians, among others. While this would no doubt be the biggest draw of the annual Konosu Bikkuri Hina-matsuri, there's more. In the city, 7,000 to 8,000 dolls are currently on show at storefronts, schools and public halls.

During the festival, which runs through Saturday, an outdoor market of local delicacies, such as the wide kawahaba udon noodles, will be held.

For those interested in the history of the doll festival, the Nezu Museum in Tokyo's Minami-Aoyama district is running an exhibition featuring a century-plus-old top-quality set of hina dolls and accompanying miniature accessories collected by the late owner of the Tokyo-based confectionery maker Toraya. The maker's 14th-generation owner Mitsukage Kurokawa commissioned the 300-piece set of dolls and accessories when his daughter was born in 1897.

The Konosu Bikkuri Hina-matsuri Festival, takies place at City Hall and surrounding areas. For details, call (048) 541-1321 or visit kounosubina.main.jp (Japanese). The Toraya hina-dolls exhibition at Nezu Museum runs till April 8. For details, visit www.nezu-muse.or.jp/en/exhibitions/index.html#anc01.

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