Iwatsuki, a ward in Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, grew famous in the 17th century as a major producer of hand crafted dolls because of the large amounts and high quality of the kiri (paulonia) trees that grow in the area. They became most famous for producing the special dolls displayed during Hina Matsuri, or the girl’s festival held every March 3rd. Saitama’s 6th postcard celebrates this long tradition in the “doll town” of Iwatsuki.
You can read more about the origins and traditions of Hina Matsuri here, and all about the dolls and what they stand for. There are up to 7 levels of dolls, and it is common in Japan for grandparents to buy their granddaughters a set (or at least the top two main dolls) to display at this time. I have seen many of these dolls, though I don’t have a set myself, and each one is beautiful and unique!
A town I lived in until recently has an annual display of Hina Matsuri dolls, with local collectors and owners lending the dolls to be displayed in town.
My town’s Doll Festival display
Iwatsuki is the main producer of Hina dolls in Japan, so any retailer selling around the country is probably selling dolls from Iwatsuki! But if you’d like to get up close and personal to the dolls and makers themselves, Iwatsuki is an easy trip from Tokyo, and there is a lot to do in the town.
Of course, if you can visit on March 3rd, that is the best time to see not only the dolls, but a real life procession, and other fun events. However the two museums, Tougyoku Dolls Hall and the Tokyu Doll Museum are open to visitors year-round. Moreover, with a walk around the area it is easy to spot workshops and stores around the area.
Enjoy girl’s day and these beautiful dolls!