30 January—5 April 2020

Hinamatsuri: Japanese Dolls Festival

Hinamatsuri, also known as Dolls Festival, is a special day in Japan.

Celebrated every spring for the last 400 years, sets of ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians in traditional dress are displayed on red platforms.

To mark the Japanese Dolls Festival, we’re displaying two of our exquisite doll sets to offer an insight into Japan’s imperial family, courtly dress and aristocratic traditions.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery cares for four sets of Japanese dolls dating from the 1870s to the 1950s.

Hinamatsuri is celebrated on 3 March when girls traditionally set up dolls representing the wedding of an Emperor and Empress alongside figures representing their courtiers. The dolls, clothed in silk, sit on bright red cloths on stepped displays, along with miniature lacquer furniture.

Originally this was a custom to safeguard the health and happiness of young girls but it has become a widely celebrated and commercially important seasonal event. Shops and public spaces all over Japan have special Dolls Festival displays. People pass down sets of dolls as heirlooms or buy new dolls for baby girls, depending on the family budget and the size of their homes.

In the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this new display will showcase Bristol’s Dolls Festival sets which are unique in the UK. Not only do the sets look striking when assembled but they give us the opportunity to explore aspects of Japanese culture from imperial dress to music, lifestyle, eating and drinking. Find out more about Hinamatsuri.


With thanks to our sponsor, InsideJapan Tours.

Additional information

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery opening times:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Closed Mondays except Bank Holiday Mondays and Mondays during Bristol school holidays: 10am-5pm