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The small coastal town of Katsuura holds one of Japan's most impressive hina matsuri doll festival during late Feb. to early March. A whopping 25,000 hina ningyo dolls are displayed all over town. Photo: JR Katsuura Station on the Sotobo Line. Katsuura is about 2 hours from Tokyo on non-express trains. Board the Sotobo Line at Chiba Station.
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When you arrive at Katsuura Station, you'll see a big display of hina matsuri dolls. Don't be impressed yet though. The Katsuura Big Hinamatsuri festival is held during late Feb. until March 3 which is Girls Day.
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Tourist info office near Katsuura Station. They offer maps of the city and hina matsuri points of interest.
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An early-blooming variety of cherry blossom also bloom in Katsuura during the hina matsuri, making it an added attraction. It was held during Feb. 20 to March 3, 2010 when I went.
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Central Katsuura is compact, and you can reach most places on foot. Sign points the way to Tomisaki Shrine. There are a few places in Katsuura where you can see giant displays of hina dolls. Tomisaki Shrine is the centerpiece.
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When planning to visit the hina matsuri in Katsuura, make sure it will not rain. If it rains, the hina dolls will not be displayed outdoors. They are the most impressive ones. This is at the Tona street intersection.
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A few minutes walk from Katsuura Station, this Tona street intersection will be the first giant display of hina dolls you will see. 墨名(とな)交差点
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It was a nice sunny weekday when I went. On weekends, they have various entertainment. But the weekends were cloudy or rainy this year.
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Hina matsuri dolls at Tona street intersection in Katsuura, Chiba. About 600 dolls are displayed here from 8 am to 5 pm during the festival period.
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If it starts to rain, the surrounding neighbors will come out immediately to put away the dolls. There was no threat of rain this day.
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This Big Hina Matsuri festival started relatively recently. The city of Katsuura got the idea for this festival after the town of Katsuura in Tokushima Prefecture (Shikoku) started its Big Hina Matsuri in 1989.
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Since Katsuura town in Tokushima had the same name as Katsuura in Chiba, they lent 7,000 hina dolls to Katsuura in Chiba to start their own "Big Hina Matsuri."
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The festival in Katsuura, Chiba has grown to have a whopping 25,000 hina dolls on exhibit during late Feb. to March 3, the traditional Girls Day. It has since become famous in the Tokyo (Kanto) area as the TV news report it in late Feb.
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The whole town has become involved in the festival's success. Many owners of shops and homes where tourists pass by decorate their buildings with hina dolls.
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The hina dolls are traditionally displayed in a home to pray for the health and growth of the family's children. However, after the kids grow up, the hina dolls are no longer displayed.
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Since it's wasteful to throw away these hina dolls, they send them to places like Katsuura to be reused. Katsuura's collection has thus grown to 25,000 as people all over Japan sent their old dolls.
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Each hina doll thus represents a family's hope, prayer, and history.
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About the Katsuura Hina Matsuri doll festival.
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Walk further and you see this small space exhibiting origami hina dolls.
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Origami hina dolls
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Origami hina dolls
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All over central Katsuura, you will see hina dolls displayed, especially at storefronts. It makes it a very charming sight.
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This neighborhood bookstore has hina dolls under the magazine racks.
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A futon bedding shop has hina dolls made of blankets.
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Dolls depicting figure skaters Takahashi Daisuke and Ando Miki who appeared at the Vancouver Winter Olympics during the time of the hina matsuri.
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Noren shop curtain with hina doll design.
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Placing hina dolls in bamboo is common.
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Even this soft drink vending machine had hina dolls.
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Way to Tomisaki Shrine.
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Entering Tomisaki Shrine.
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This is the famous display of hina ningyo dolls on 60 steps of Tomisaki Shrine. It is the festival's centerpiece and main attraction.
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About 1,200 hina dolls are sitting on these steps. This doll display is assembled every morning at 7 am and put away every evening during the festival. It takes around 15 people about an hour to set up the dolls every morning during the festival.
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The dolls are displayed from 8 am to 7 pm (or 8 pm on weekends). If it rains, the dolls are not displayed.
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If the dolls are displayed and it starts to rain, people in the neighborhood all rush out to put away the dolls.
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These dolls are also lit up at night until 8 pm when they are put away.
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This is by far the biggest hina doll display I had ever seen in Japan. A hina matsuri of similar scale is also held in Katsuura, Tokushima Prefecture.
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It says, "Katsuura Hina Matsuri."
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Held at the same time as the doll festival is the Asa-ichi morning market along a back street.
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Each vendor at the morning market also displays hina dolls along with their wares. Very nice touch.
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Morning market gets really crowded later in the afternoon when more tourists arrive.
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Sushi (my lunch) with a hina doll and sakura flower design. The head is made of cheese.
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This is the Katsuura Chuo Shotengai shopping street, the festival's main street. It leads to Kakuoji temple and the public library where there are more dolls.
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This shop decorated its stairway and 2nd floor.
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Doll exhibit for a photo op. Sit there to take a picture with the dolls.
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This Matsu no Ie ryokan is an Important Cultural Property. 松の家
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Inside the ryokan are hina dolls.
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Hina dolls outside the ryokan.
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Tourist information
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Doll display at Kakuoji temple's Sanmon Gate. This is at the end of the Chuo Shotengai shopping street. 覚翁寺(かくおうじ)山門前
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Doll display at Kakuoji temple's Sanmon Gate. About 600 dolls here. Displayed from 8 am to 6:30 pm and lit up at 5 pm. Accented by nanohana rape blossoms.
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Hina dolls in bamboo.
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Kakuoji temple 覚翁寺(かくおうじ)山門前
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Next to the temple is the public library, another venue for doll displays.
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The 2nd floor of the public library exhibits hina dolls.
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These hanging decorations called tsurushi kazari (つるし飾り) often flank the hina dolls. Hanging on the strings are various decorations such as goldfish. Each decoration is significant for something, usually related to prosperity, good health and fo
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The 2nd floor of the public library also displays handmade hina dolls made by local nursery school kids.
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They use simple, everyday materials to make these hina dolls.
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Are those ping-pong ball heads?
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Hina dolls made of quilt material.
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Older dolls are also displayed.
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From the Taisho Period.
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Meiji Period
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Edo Period hina dolls
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Dolls in a bottle
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One more place to see hina dolls is at Katsuura City Hall. Walkable from the public library.
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Katsuura City Hall
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As soon as you step into Katsuura City Hall, you see this large stand of hina dolls.
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Inside Katsuura City Hall
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Hina matsuri dolls at Katsuura City Hall. About 500 dolls here, displayed from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm during the festival period.
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Back in central Katsuura, a house with an elaborate display of hina dolls.
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So, I think I saw most of the 25,000 hina dolls on display at Katsuura.
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Katsuura Big Hina Matsuri festival poster for 2010. Official Web site here
   
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