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  • Gaby Doman

The Artisans Behind Hina Dolls

Take home a traditional and tailormade heirloom

A Japanese doll wearing layers of orange silk

Just before sakura season takes hold of the nation, Hina Dolls have their moment. From early February, you will see these elegant dolls displayed in homes, hotel lobbies, shops and elsewhere. They are part of Girl’s Day (also known as Hinamatsuri) celebrations on March 3rd. It’s a day to pray for the health and happiness of girls.

A collection of Japanese emperor dolls

Hina dolls are amulets which are believed to ward off bad luck. They are dressed like Heian period (794 - 1185) emperors and empresses. Most people have just two hina dolls, but displays can be elaborate stepped platforms featuring dozens of dolls, lacquerware and plum blossoms.

Japanese dolls, some half-finished, sitting on a roll of silk

A girl’s first Hinamatsuri is especially important. During their first Girl's Day, young girls are given new or heirloom dolls.

One of Japan's most famous and most prestigious dollmakers, Mataro Doll, uses a traditional technique, called Kimekomi, to create exceptionally beautiful hina dolls. Legend has it that the method was developed in the middle of the 18th century by Takahashi Tadashige, a priest in one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto. He used scraps of fabric from his robes and wood leftover from festivals to create a doll. He draped the fabric over the carved wooden doll, tucking the fabric scraps into the groves to give it its distinctive look. The name Kimekomi literally means “to tuck into a groove.”

A Japanese doll wearing layers of orange silk

Mataro Dolls, established in 1919, is the only company certified by Kamigamo Shrine as a producer of authentic Kimekomi dolls. This family business is now helmed by the third-generation, Mataro Kinbayashi III, who is keeping this ancient dollmaking tradition alive. His son is learning the craft too, assuring the future of these carefully crafted dolls.

The ends of a pile of rolls of silk

Luxurique guests have the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes of its central Tokyo location to choose an heirloom Emperor and Empress to take home. They can pick the dolls’ body, face and a few of the tens of thousands of opulent fabrics in the workshop to make up the outfit layers. Your craftsperson will tailor one-of-a-kind dolls for guests to take home and pass down from generation to generation within their own family.

A man in a robe looking through a book of silk samples

Whether you’re interested in having your own tailormade heirloom or you have something else in mind for your next trip to Japan, we have the connections to make it memorable. Contact us today to see how we can elevate your itinerary.


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