The Japanese Doll Festival of Hina Matsuri

by Jayashree Krishnan on February 28, 2018 in Lifestyle, Living Texas, Dallas/Fort Worth,
IMG 1242 credit Vinod Nanu e1519810146845

I am an Indian by birth, and moved to the United States in 1998. Being away from home for the first time, I had doubts on whether I would be able to find friendship and commonality with others.

In the summer of 2002, my family and I moved from Texas to Washington, DC. I decided to explore my new surroundings and eventually met my now dear friend, Chiharu Tashibu. In the spring of 2003, she invited me to her home to celebrate the Japanese festival of Hina Matsuri, or “Doll Festival.”

Hina Matsuri is celebrated on March 3rd and is considered a “Girl’s Day,” with families praying for their daughters’ happiness, well-being and growth. My first impression was that Hina Matsuri was similar to the Indian festival of Navratri Bommai Kolu. In both festivals, the females in the family display unique dolls. I was amazed at how two different cultures also had many similarities, and became interested in learning more about traditional Japanese dolls and the Hina Matsuri festival.

These Emperor and Empress dolls celebrating the festival of Hina Matsuri were made using the Kimekomi method of handicraft. Photo by Vinod Nanu

Soon, I enrolled in the Washington Japanese Dolls and Crafts School and learned how to make these beautiful dolls, which play a significant role in Japanese culture. I studied two techniques: Kimekomi and Oshie.

An example of the traditional Japanese handicraft of Oshie. Photo by Vinod Nanu

The Kimekomi method of making dolls begins with a carved or molded base of wood. A design of different patterns is created, cloth pieces are glued on, and the edges are tucked into grooves. Lastly, the head and hands are attached with glue.

Similarly, Oshie is a traditional form of Japanese handicraft. An Oshie piece comprises of many individual parts, like a puzzle. Each part is wrapped either in a beautiful kimono material or colorful Japanese paper (Chiyogami), cotton is placed in between, and the parts are glued together to give a three-dimensional effect to the piece. (The cover photo for this article is an example of Oshie. Photo by Vinod Nanu.)

Learning about Japanese crafts has been an enriching experience for me, and has opened up my understanding of the world’s cultures. Since returning to Texas, I have continued exploring my passion for Japanese culture by teaching the Oshie craft to others in Dallas. I hope to increase awareness of Japanese crafts by giving presentations at schools and museums around the state.

Jayashree Krishnan is an Indian-born American artist based in Irving, Texas. She makes both traditional Indian and Japanese arts and crafts.