The town of Iwatsuki is said to have over 300 doll-makers and 100 shops that sell them. They’ve been making dolls there since the 1700s, when doll-makers started setting up shop there because the kiri (paulonia) trees there excellent for woodcarving. It soon became a center for the production of hina dolls, and the tradition continues to this day.
I had an idea that doll-making might be a dying business, but it seems to be very common for grandparents to buy a set of hina dolls for new granddaughters, and the shops are surprisingly crowded in the months before Girls’ Day (March 3).
Every year there is a small festival on girls day, with a procession, koto (Japanese harp) concert, and other events. Combined with a visit to the two doll museums, a couple of shops, the nearby Iwatsuki Park, and possibly a stop in at nearby Bonsai Mura, it could be an interesting day out.
Here are some pictures of the procession:
The procession takes place on the Sunday before (or on) March 3. Check the Japan Times Festival Listings for more information.
And here’s the small, but very interesting doll museum. Many of the dolls date back hundreds of years and are truly works of art. It is also interesting to see how they have evolved over time.
The museum is on the fourth floor, and the two floors below it are a nice doll shop.
Togokyu Doll Museum
3-2-32 Hon-cho, Iwatsuki-ku, Saitama City, Tel. 048-756-1111
Open: Tues. – Sun. (open every day from Nov. 1-May 5), 9 AM-5 PM. Closed at New Year’s, Obon (Aug. 13-15).
It costs 300 yen to enter and is right across from the station the station on the left side of the street that runs perpendicular to the tracks.
English website: http://www.tougyoku.com/english.html
There’s also a second doll museum called the Oningyo Rekishikan Tokyu. It has some nice displays, including a stand with 1,000 dolls in it.
Oningyo Rekishikan Tokyu
3-2-32 Hon-cho, Iwatsuki-ku, Saitama City
Open: 10 AM-5 PM
Exit the station and walk up the street that runs perpendicular to the tracks. Go to the second stop light and turn right. Walk five and a half blocks, and you’ll find it on your right, just after a temple and a 7-11.
There’s no English website, but this page has some pictures (click to enlarge): http://www.scvb.or.jp/data/tokyu.shtml
There are doll festivals here on April 19 and November 3 every year. The one on April 19 is called Nagashi-bina. First, there’s a really lovely koto concert by young girls in beautiful kimono. Then priests come and bless paper dolls that are to be floated down the river.
November third is a festival for disposing of old, unwanted dolls. Both festivals begin around 10:00 AM.