Suruga Hina Doll – Beautiful, But Delicate Dolls of Good Luck

Hina doll is a set of Japanese dolls that gets displayed on the 3rd of March every year. It is said to represent the wish from parents to their female child/children for them to grow up into a healthy, generous women. People consider the Hina doll as the double of their children, so that the dolls could take on the misfortune for them, and so that the children would grow up beautiful, happily marry, and be blessed for their entirety.

(Image: Shizuoka Pref.)

In this article, I’d like to introduce you to the Suruga Hina dolls, along with the detailed explanation of what the Hina dolls are.

Hina dolls 101 – You’ll Understand in 5 Minutes!


Traditional Hina Dolls are usually displayed in Nanadan Kazari (Seven Steps display), with fifteen set of dolls. With the basic pair, the empress and the emperor at the top, the attendants, and a set of trousseau, the display not only look gorgeous but also represent the history and the meaning of Hina dolls.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, full set of hina dolls
(Image: Ando Doll Shop)

Top Stage – ‘Dairi Hina (The Emperor and the Empress)

On the top stage is the Oyadama Kazari (A display of the emperor and the empress). Usually there’s a ‘byo-bu (golden folding screen)’ behind them, and ‘bonbori (lantenrs)’ on each of their sides. Between them is a ‘Sanpou (a special tray)’ topped with a bottle called ‘heishi’ with peach blossoms in it. For modern Hina dolls, the emperor is set on the left, and the empress on the right from the front.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, simple pair Hina dolls: emperor and empress

Second Step – ‘Sannin Kanjo (The Three Court Ladies)’

The three court ladies comes next. The lady who holds a long ‘choushi (an equipment to pour sake)’ stands on the right, one with the shorter ‘choushi’ stands on the left from the front, and the last one sits in the middle. If you set the side with their feet outward you can easily line them up. In between the ladies, you put ‘Takatuski (a serving table)’, and offer a seasonal sweets such as bean paste rice cake wrapped in a cherry leaf or a mugwort rice cakes.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, three court ladies Hina dolls

Third Step – ‘Gonin Bayashi (The Five Musicians)’

On the third stage is the five musicians. From the right side sits the ‘Utai (the singer)’ (he is holding a fan), ‘hue (flute player)’, ‘kotsuzumi (shoulder drummer)’, ‘Okawa (hand slide drummer)’, and then the ‘Taiko (stick drummer)’. The instruments get bigger as you go left.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, Gonin Bayashi (The Five Musicians)

Fourth Step – ‘Zuijin (The Ministers)

One on the right is the ‘Sadaijin (Minister of the left)’, and the younger one on the left is the’Udaijin (Minister of the right)’.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, ‘Zuijin (The Ministers)

Fifth Step – ‘Shicho (General Laborer)’

The one who has the shoe table sits in the middle, and on his left sits the ‘Daigasa’, and on the right sits the ‘Tategasa’. You can line them up easily by placing the dolls so that the umbrellas are outward.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, Shicho (General Laborer)

Sixth and the Seventh Steps

Various sorts of trousseau are placed here. Usually a drawer, a lacquered box, dressing table, chests, sewing box, garment bag, brazier, and tea utensils are on the sixth step, and the palanquin, next of boxes, and the court carriage are on the seventh (lighter things on the upper, heavier things on the lower step), but there are no specific rules.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, decorative objects

The full set of ‘Nanadan Kazari’ that provides you the experience of history and its meaning is a real masterpiece; however, when you think about the space it takes up and it’s price, it’s a bit difficult to think about getting one. Even the cheapest ones are over 200,000 yen, and if it’s an expensive set it could go up to more than 1,000,000 yen.

Since ‘Hina dolls’ were considered one of the trousseau, it was common that a family would inherit the set of dolls from their mother. That is why in some honorable houses, especially on the country side, people often have a precious antique.
Additionally, it is said that the shape and the decoration have a variety depending on where they were made, and it is often clearly divided between the Kanto region and Kansai region. In Kanto region, a lot of the decoration represent the life and the belongings of the Samurai Class. While in Kansai region, the decoration is based on the life in the imperial palace.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, gorgeous Hina dolls set installed in a living room
(Image: Yahoo! Blog)

In the past, a luxurious Hina dolls such as the full set of Nanadan Kazari were the standard, but because of the housing situations in Japan today, smaller displays such as Godan (Five steps), Sandan (Three Steps), and Oyadama Kazari are becoming increasingly popular.

The smallest one of all is the Oyadama Kazari, with just the Emperor and the Empress on top of a pedestal, with a golden folding screen in the back.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, simplest pair of Hina dolls
(Image: Rakuten Shop)

The Features of Suruga Hina Dolls

The unique quality of the Suruga Hina dolls is in its size. It is bigger than that of the standard size because the rice straws are used to make its torso. It is said that this is because rice planting has been very popular in around Shizuoka, and thus rice straws were easily obtained.
Additionally, the crafts people add the extra volume and luxury by making the costumes for upper and lower part of the body separately. And because they are able to completely divide the labor between those who work on the upper and the lower, it speeds up the production, leading them to take up about 70% of the Hina dolls share.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, product exmple
(Image: Murayama Doll Shop)

A lot of traditional and non-traditional crafts people still live in areas such as Komagata and Tamachi in the city of Shizuoka. Although the mass production became the main stream since the introduction of new materials such as plastic during the 1950s, crafts such as the traditional woodworking joints, lacquerware, and gold lacquer are being recognized once again because of them.

Hina dolls are often home manufactured, so the workshops usually look like a normal housing. Some people have their own workshops and doll crafters, while some crafts people gather around in one place to create one huge workshop called the ‘Ningyo Danchi’. They create dolls using materials both self-made and bought, and produce one set of Hina dolls. It is also possible to make an original Hina doll by buying parts from different stores.

Hina dolls made in Suruga, a traditional Japanese craft, making process
(Image: Amanas Image)

Tamachi area in Shizuoka city is very close from the JR Shizuoka Station.
If you’re interested, please visit the area!

author Kanna

Author - Kanna

A writing/translating enthusiast and a part-time illustrator, recently graduated from Sophia University. My expertise is in media and English studies, but I am also interested in a wide variety of fields, including traditions of art in Japan and how it has changed and been preserved. I hope people find interest in Japan through this blog!

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