History and Tradition of Dolls

It is said that “Rome was not built in a day.”
The same is true for Hina Dolls and Gogatsu Dolls.
Festival Dolls have a history of more than a thousand years.
Over the years, the figures of today were formed
by the trial and error of pioneering doll makers and doll dealers.
So, let’s understand the history and tradition of dolls
from the point of view of “Edo and Dolls,” “History of Hina Doll Stores,”
“Transition of Hina Dolls,” and “Japanese Festivals.”

Spring of Edo can’t start without Hina Dolls

Edo Feature, Hina Doll Festival

It is said that there were instruments displayed for the Hina Doll Festival among the gifts presented to the Imperial Court by Tokugawa Masako, who married the Emperor and entered the Court in 1620. From this, we can see that the Hina Doll Festival was so popular in Edo at that time that instruments displayed for the Hina Doll Festival were gifts given even in the birthplace of the Hina Doll. In the Edo period, ordinary people also came to know about the cultures of the dynasty and life at the court from plays and stories and began to adore them. Then, the Hina Doll Festival made people recall the adoring culture, captured women’s hearts, and became established as a gorgeous event.

The Bustle of the Hina Doll Market

As the Hina Doll Festival became popular, the number and the kind of dolls increased. The Hina Doll Market was formed with rows of stores dealing in Hina Dolls and instruments for Hina Dolls. In the market, girls are walking around together and women with babies are trying hard to find good instruments for the Hina Doll Festival. There are also samurai warriors stopping at Hina Doll stores and looking admiringly at the dolls. There is also a person dressed for a journey, who seems to have come from far away. The Market is so popular that even a palanquin passes through the crowd with attendants. Such is the bustle of the Hina Doll Market during the day. At night, it is described vividly in “Edo Meisho Zue (Guide to famous Edo sites).

During the Jokyo era (1684 to 1688), the Hina Doll Markets were held in Koji-machi of Ginza (Owari-cho), Ningyo-cho, Takara-machi, Hongoku-cho and Jukkendana from February 27 to March 2. Among them, the market at Jukkendana was famous and that scene was described in the “Edo Meisho Zue (Guide to famous Edo sites). As the Hina Doll Festival was prevailing as an annual event, the number of Hina Doll Markets increased during the Kyoho era (1716 to 1736) and new Hina Doll Markets were also held in Adakusabashi (Asakusa-Kayacho), Ikenohata-nakacho of Uen, Ushigome-kagurazaka, Shiba-shimmei-cho, and so on. At that time, the period of the Markets was extended from February 25 to March 2. At Hina Doll Markets, Gogatsu Dolls were sold as well, but markets for Gogatsu Dolls were designated from April 25 to May 4.

The Hina Doll Market at Jukkendana was published in 1832 and drawn by Hasegawa Settan
National Diet Library Collection

Cry of Hina Doll Sellers

It is said that, as the Festival comes near, the cry of Hina Doll sellers can be heard in the town of Edo. Hina Doll sellers strolled, door-to-door, with clothes in boxes hung on each end of a carrying pole. The Hina Dolls and instruments that peddlers sell are not as luxurious as those sold at stores, but low prices make it easy for people who cannot afford dolls at the stores. The peak of Hina Doll selling was from the beginning of the Meiwa period to the beginning of the Anei period (1760s to 1770s). Eventually, it died out and the sellers’ cries were not heard during the Kansei period (1789 to 1801).

東都浅草絵図 / 嘉永六年(一八五三)

The Hina Doll Market and Hina Doll Stores

Hina Doll Markets are made up of “Hina company.” It consists of various groups, such as big wholesale stores called O-dana, fixed stores called Tokodana, doll makers, and small retail dealers.

At first, even big wholesale stores, Ō-dana, often could not make a living only by selling dolls. Most of them dealt in toys or housewares, including Tabi (Japanese socks) and small wares.

In that process, people who gained power as wholesalers came to form a “company” exclusively for wholesalers. This “company” was called the “Association of Doll Wholesalers” and it was comprised of two groups: the first group was the “Association of the Playing Hina Doll” and the second group was the “Association of the Seasonal Hina Doll.” This Association of Doll Wholesalers acted as a leader and supported the doll world.

In the “Edo Kaimono Hitori Annai (Shopping guide of Edo) published in 1824, the third head of Kyugetsu, Yoshinoya Kyubei, was named as one of 10 people belonging to this first group.