March 5, 2011

Katsuura Big Dolls Festival

Katsuura Station

Katsuura, Chiba, a small city along the Pacific Ocean that goes all-out for Girls' Day (March 3) every year. They gather hina dolls (a traditional set of dolls that are gifted to girls for Girls' Day), and exhibit them throughout the city, in public spaces, shops, and even shrines. 

The delicate dolls were covered up that day, to protect them from the rain.
Named the Katsuura Big Dolls Festival, this year's festival took place from February 19 to March 3. Visitors can walk around the small city and spot literally thousands of dolls decorated everywhere. The total number is around 25,000. 

Peeking inside the shroud.
Where do they get these dolls? They are all donations: from families whose daughters are grown up, by people who don't have enough space in their house to display the dolls, and people who simply found that their dolls were languishing in their closets.

A cafe uses its staircase to display the dolls.
This ingenious idea was actually born in Katsuura, Tokushima Prefecture, in southern Japan. It gives the dolls a second life, and since hina doll sets are incredibly expensive, people can undoubtedly rest easier knowing that they are being appreciated by a sizable audience. (For a seven-tiered set, such as in the photo above, even a cheap version costs around $2400 dollars, and prices get infinitely higher if you opt for quality.) 

The big draw of the festival is the display of dolls on the 60 steps of Tomisaki Shrine -- 1,200 in all. Because hina dolls are extremely fragile, they have to be put out every morning, and stored away carefully in the evening. Since the weather on the day that I went was iffy, the city didn't risk putting the dolls out at all. It was disappointing, for sure, but as you can see in the following posts, there was still much to see.

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