Suruga-hina doll

Suruga-hina doll Suruga hina ningyo

Gorgeous and luxurious garments
made from beautiful materials


What is Suruga-hina doll ?

Suruga Hina Dolls are dolls made in and around Shizuoka City in Shizuoka. Suruga Hina Dolls are larger than other dolls as thick rice straw is used to form the body which is the center of the doll. It is said that rice straw was used because Shizuoka City and the surrounding area were famous for rice production and rice straw was easy to obtain. The garments for the dolls are made separately for the upper part and lower part, giving it a more voluminous and gorgeous appearance when finished. As the production of the upper part and lower part of these dolls can be carried out separately, mass production is possible. Suruga Hina Dolls account for 70% of the total production of the bodies of Hina dolls in Japan which is more than that of the Kyoto Hina Dolls. The process in making Hina Dolls that requires the artisan’s skill the most is called ‘Furitsuke’ (arrangement of the posture) in which the doll’s arms are carefully bent. This is where the individuality of an artisan is shown, and an expert can identify the artisan by looking at the posture of the doll’s arms.


The origin of Suruga Hina Dolls are two Tenjin dolls. Michizane SUGAWARA, an aristocrat and politician who lived from 845 to 903, was worshipped as a god after his death, and was called Tenjin. One of the Tenjin dolls that are thought to be the origin of Suruga Hina Dolls is neri Tenjin, which is a doll made from a mixture of paulownia wood sawdust and wheat starch, and then colored with a brush. The other doll, made in the Edo period, is a Tenjin doll wearing clothes, which is a doll unique to the Suruga region. The oldest Tenjin doll wearing clothes was made in 1853. These two dolls are thought to be the origin of Suruga Hina Dolls. During the Edo period (1603 - 1868), craftsmen from Kyoto and Edo (current Tokyo) brought techniques and skills of Kyo Hina Dolls and Edo Hina Dolls to Suruga. These techniques were combined with those unique to the Suruga region, and high quality hina dolls were made. From then on, besides standing Tenjin dolls and hina dolls, Shinno hina dolls (young couple dolls) and Takasago dolls (dolls of an old couple) were made as dolls for seasonal festivals. In the late Edo period, Dairi hina dolls imitating the emperor and empress, and dolls for the Boys' festival held in May were made. After this, other dolls decorated with the couple hina dolls including the three court ladies and five musicians were made to complete a seven tiered hina doll set with a total of fifteen dolls. Today in Shizuoka (as of 2015), there is still a custom to decorate Tenjin dolls and dolls for the Boys' festival together with the emperor and empress hina dolls in homes where there are boys.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Making the straw body First, the doll’s body made of straw which is unique to Suruga Hina Dolls is prepared. Rice straw to become the body of the doll is tightly wound and is wrapped with paper. It is then dried and cut to the size of the doll.
  2. 2. Paring Using a knife, the body is shaped into a human figure, with curves around the chest, for example.
  3. 3. Assembling the body Wood wool is wrapped in paper to form a conical shape to make the arms. Wood wool is made of finely shaved and dried cedar, cypress or pine. The arms and wires are put through the straw body. Legs and feet are also made and attached.
  4. 4. Dressing Luxurious Japanese fabrics, Nishijin-ori and Kiryu-ori are used for the garments of Suruga Hina Dolls. Nishijin-ori is a thread-dyed fabric produced in Nishijin in northwest Kyoto. Kiryu-ori is a silk fabric produced in Kiryu City, Gunma. Fabrics for doll garments are selected on the basis of design, pattern and color that conform to the traditional garments of Hina Dolls. Glue is applied on the pattern made of Japanese paper or western paper which is pasted onto the back of the fabric using the edge-pasting method. The edge-pasting method gives a smoother finish and makes stitching and dressing easier. When the glue is dried, the fabric is cut along the pattern. The fabric is then sewed with a sewing machine and by hand. Dolls are to be dressed carefully when the garments are ready. The male doll called tono or odairi-sama, is dressed in a traditional ceremonial court dress and hakama (traditional pants). The female doll called hime, is dressed in hitoe (unlined single kimono), itsutsu-ginu (a robe with multiple bands of colored silk attached at the edges of the sleeves and at the neckline), uchi-ginu (a beaten scarlet silk robe worn as a stiffener and support for the outer robes), omote-ginu (one of many kimonos forming juni-hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono), kara-ginu (the outermost garment of juni-hitoe), mo (the garment to be worn over hakama), hikigoshi (decorative ropes) and hakama. Several hitoe were worn in those days, so they were generally referred to as juni-hitoe. Animal glue is traditionally used for dressing the dolls.
  5. 5. Arrangement of the arms The doll’s arms are bent. The image of the doll is determined by this process.The arms attached to the straw body initially stretch out sideways. The artisan bends the arms and arranges the doll’s posture. A male doll must look masculine and powerful and a female doll must look feminine and loving. The wire in the arms can be bent only once so no mistake is allowed in this process. The artisan has to concentrate and work carefully. The characteristics of each artisan and the level of their skills become significant in this process.
  6. 6.Attaching the head The head is attached to the doll firmly. Another important thing is the direction in which the doll is looking. Roughly divided, there are two types. One is where the doll looks straight ahead and the other is where the doll looks slightly down so that they can meet the eyes of a person looking at the doll from below as they sit. The direction where the doll is looking has to be decided not only for the main couple dolls, but also for the three court ladies and five musicians, in accordance with their roles.
  7. 7. Finish Finally, the accessories for the dolls are prepared. The male doll has a crown, a thin and transparent wing-like bow at the back of the crown called ei, a container for hair called koji, and a hair accessory to fix the hair to the crown called kogai. He also has a shaku, which is a mace with the requirements of the ceremony written on it, a cermonial sword called kazatachi and a sword belt called hirao. The female doll has a hair accessory called saishi to fix her osuberakashi, which is a hair style for noble woman, a hairband called hitai-gushi, and a ceremonial folding fan on which the courtroom etiquette was written called hiogi. When all the small props are attached, the Suruga Hina Doll is completed.

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