It’s almost time for the traditional festival of the Hinamatsuri, also known as Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day. This is when ornamental dolls representing the emperor and empress from the Heian period are displayed in homes and other places around Japan.

There are many kinds and sizes of Hina-ningyo, or Hina dolls, but most have white faces and ornate costumes. The basic version is two sitting dolls (suwari-bina) on a stand, but there are more elaborate ones with multi-tiered stands and numerous dolls representing different court figures. There are also ones that stand up.

Despite the Heian look of the dolls, though, the festival itself dates back more recently to the 17th century.

The 2017 festival will be held on the usual date of March 3rd. Ahead of this, the online magazine Japaaan did a recent round-up of some interesting Hina dolls with rare designs. After all, traditions only survive if they evolve and these dolls reveal the fun things that can happen when modern design sensibilities and materials are applied to the Hinamatsuri customs.

Some of these brilliant adaptions use wood blocks or metal to radically change the shape of the dolls. Just using a different material such as fabric or porcelain completely transforms the texture of the dolls. Another features a circular display rather than the standard step-style showcase.

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

hinamatsuri doll japan festival unusual designs modern

For comparison, here is relatively conventional Hina doll display.

typical hinamatsuri doll japan festival custom

ice ball mold japanese

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