In Japan, March 3rd is the date of the seasonal festival of the peach, more commonly known as Hinamatsuri (the Doll Festival or Girl's Festival), a traditional custom in which hina dolls are placed on display in homes to pray for the sound and healthy growth of young girls. These hina dolls come in magnificently ornate tiered sets, with male and female dolls called Odairi-sama and Ohina-sama, representing the emperor and empress, placed on the top tier and three court ladies, five court musicians and various attendants, carriages and other ornamental dolls placed on lower tiers, all surrounded by plum tree decorations.
The custom of displaying these hina dolls is said to have originated during the Edo Period, and many families still keep antique hina dolls from that time as treasured heirlooms to be passed down through generations. The Tomo area of Fukuyama has long been prosperous as a port town, and many of the old houses that line the streets still vividly maintain the look and feel of the Edo Period. Here, an event known as "Tomo Machinami Hinamatsuri" is held each year from mid-February to late March, during which time households around town in Tomo put their hina dolls on display so that visitors can enjoy viewing them as they go from house to house.
As many as 100 different households take part in this event, so visitors can get a good sense of just how cherished the hina dolls passed down through generations of households are, as well as just how deeply entrenched in Japanese culture the custom of displaying hina dolls has become through the ages. The hina dolls that are on display, many of which were crafted from the Edo Period through the Meiji Period, come in many different shapes and sizes and there is also a wide variety of different types of ornamental dolls. Strolling through the old town of Tomo as you become more and more absorbed in the captivating world of the hina dolls, you are sure to feel almost as you have traveled back in time to the Edo Period.