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The Hina Dolls and Hina Ware of the Tokugawa Shogunal Household

Noriko Tokugawa,
Second Daughter of Tokugawa Tsunenari,
President of the Tokugawa Memorial Foundation,
and Curator of the Foundation.

From March 3 to April 5, we have organized a special exhibition of Hina Dolls in Mt. Kuno Museum in Shizuoka Prefecture. The exhibit comprised some 100 Hina dolls and related wares.

The Hina Matsuri is a traditional Japanese ceremony held on the third of March celebrating the growth and good health of daughters. Dolls are put on display, and amazake (sweet rice malt) and arare (sweet rice puffs) are served. Hina literally means "a small model", but in this case refers to the noble woman's doll, which is accompanied by her husband, the Dairi.

For wealthy families, the Hina ceremony is an important occasion to put their wealth on show. A large, stair-shaped shelf covered by red felt is prepared, and on the top shelf the Hina and Dairi are situated, with their servants, guards and related wares coming on the lower levels.

Naturally, the Hina ceremony in the Tokugawa Shogunal Palace of Edo Castle would be exceptionally gorgeous. In the O-oku, the women's compound in Edo Castle, the ladies celebrated the Hina ceremony from the first to the fourth of March, preparing a twelve-leveled display stage for old and new Hina Dolls and large Jirozaemon dolls. The costume of the couple of Dairi and Hina on the top were made anew every year. Also, such displays were made in several locations within the O-oku, and it took a full week for preparing them all.

After the Tokugawa Shogunate was abolished, the Tokugawa Shogunal Household became a part of the new Imperial aristocratic order, and heads of the Shogunal Household became Imperial Dukes. Today, the Tokugawa Shogunal Household retains the Hina Dolls and Wares of the Consorts of the 13th and 14th Shoguns and the wives of the 16th and 17th heads of the (Imperial Ducal) Household.

When my mother married my father (the 18th head of the Shogunal Household), there was a carpenter who would visit the house regularly for minor repair work. At the beginning of March each year, he would build a seven-level display shelf, and once it was ready, the women of the household--my mother, the maids--would enjoy taking the dolls and wares out from the wooden cases and putting them on their places on the shelf.

I have seen the Hina display in our house only three or four times in my entire life. On those occasions, I would, naturally, help with the preparation work: indeed when I was a little child, I would climb the step-like shelves to put the items in their proper places. Once the display was ready, the living space for my family would narrow considerably. Yet since we have moved into our current house some twenty years ago, the Hina display at home, given the absence of tatami rooms, has become increasingly rare. With the establishment of the Tokugawa Memorial Foundation, it has become custom to bring the Hina Dolls and Wares to outside locations such as Mt. Kuno Museum for the Hina ceremony period. Display at home of the Hina dolls and wares of the Shogunal Consorts and Imperial Duchesses may have passed into family history, but I am happy that the Hina ceremony of the Shogunal Household has become a public event.