Hinamatsuri at Joge Gallery & Suehiro Sake Brewery Museum
Hello there everyone! This is Mary, back with another entry in my JOGE blog series. Joge is a small town in northern Hiroshima where the charm of traditional Japanese lifestyle, architecture, and hospitality abounds. It is my hope that by writing English content about Joge, many people will come to know and love this town like I do.
Spring is on its way, and with it, Japan’s Hinamatsuri Festival! Hinamatsuri, also known as Girl’s Day, is held on March 3rd to celebrate female children and pray for their continued health and happiness. On this day, Japanese families display ceramic ornamental Hina dolls in their homes, representing the ancient imperial court.
Instead of celebrating Hinamatsuri on only March 3rd, Joge spends an entire month, from February to March, displaying dolls, hosting events, and enjoying traditional festival activities. On an average year, people flock to Joge from all over the prefecture to attend, making Hinamatsuri Joge’s busiest time of year. Due to the influence of COVID19, this year’s festival will be held on a much smaller scale, with locals displaying their own private Hina doll collections.
Of all the Hina doll collections in Joge, those exhibited at Joge Gallery and the Suehiro Sake Brewery Museum are the most elaborate. Since I was unable to visit Joge in person this month, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine to interview the owners of these two establishments, Mrs. Shigemori and Mrs. Suehiro, about their sizeable collections.
Joge Gallery is a charming café and antique shop on Joge’s main street. The owner, Mrs. Shigemori, one of my former English students, is very friendly, and loves to barter in English! Here is a photo of me and some friends visiting Mrs. Shigemori at Joge Gallery last summer.
During Hinamatsuri season, Joge Gallery is home to a massive display of over 2000 Hina dolls. This year, Mrs. Shigemori and her friends arranged the Hina dolls in an Olympics-themed diorama to celebrate the arrival of the Tokyo Olympics. The dolls are running track and field, boxing, bouldering, playing boccia, more! All of the props on the diorama were meticulously hand-made.
Joge Gallery also exhibits older Edo-era Hina dolls, status symbols of high quality that only the wealthy could afford. These dolls sport kimono with 12 linings, have long faces resembling the Heian aristocracy, and are stuffed with fine cotton.
After the Meiji era, Hina dolls became more popular with common people, leading to their mass production. Unlike the Edo-era dolls, they wore more casual kimonos, had folksy faces, and were stuffed with cheaper materials like sawdust. As a result, Hina dolls made after the Meiji era are now fragile and damage-prone.
Mrs. Shigemori makes sure that her impressive collection is carefully preserved. Thanks to her we can still see these historic dolls in the present!
Next, we go to the Suehiro Sake Brewery Museum. Mrs. Tanabe, whose family used to run the brewery, gave us a look around.
Repurposed into the present-day museum, the former brewery warehouse has a special arched ceiling and exhibits various historical tools for making sake.
A separate warehouse on the brewery property houses rare, antique Hina dolls made in Joge, Miyoshi, and Mihara. The Joge dolls were modeled after the renowned Miyoshi dolls, which feature long faces and necks. Mrs. Tanabe has received these dolls over the years, preserving them carefully for tourists to see.
In the face of COVID19 restrictions, Mrs. Shigemori and Mrs. Tanabe continue to do their best to make the Hinamatsuri season special. Even though I wasn’t able to visit in person this year, I am glad that I can share their annual exhibitions with all of you. Until next time!
Mary Popeo has lived in Hiroshima Prefecture for four years, three of which she spent in Joge. She is passionate about sharing the magic of the Japanese countryside with people from around the world. Mary currently works at a peace education nonprofit in Hiroshima City, and collaborates with Fuchu City and the Joge Town to plan programs for inbound English-speaking tourists.