Last Saturday, between my morning rehearsal and the evening concert of the Magic of Mozart, I took some time off to visit the dolls exhibit at the Edmonton Japanese Cultural Centre in celebration of Hina Matsuri, also known as the Doll’s Festival or Girls’ Day, which in Japan is celebrated on the 3rd of March. It is said, that traditionally, on a girl’s first Hina Matsuri, the parents or the grandparents would offer her a doll collection which every year would be exhibited as on the picture above. The dolls were set on a set of seven platforms covered in a rich red cloth. On the top tier would stand the Emperor and the Empress dressed in costumes of the Heian period. On the second platform you would find three court’s ladies and, beneath them, five musicians (3 drummers, 1 flutist and 1 singer). The fourth platform features two ministers, and in our example above, between them the hishimachi or diamond shape rice cake. On the fifth platform we find three servants or samurai, here flanked by a cherry tree on the left and a mandarin one on the right. On row six we have furniture and various household items, and on the seventh row the traditional ox-drawn cart.
The full set above is one of two sets owned by the ECJA. I am not sure of its provenance, but I have been told that it is over 80 years old. The second one is of a more recent vintage. In this day and age, it is unlikely that young girls will be offered such a collection for two reasons: it takes too much room and its cost is prohibitive (many thousands of dollars). If they are lucky, they will get imperial dolls that will then be in the family from generation to generation, an example to be found on the picture on the left. On the extreme left side of that picture is a fifty year old set of dolls proudly cherished to this day.