On March 5th, I fulfilled my dream of seeing hina dolls displays at the Mitsui Memorial Museum.
Entrance fee: 1000円 (£7.5), 100円 coupon available on their website.
Why go there? To admire pieces from the 300-years long collection of one of the most powerful families of merchants and industrialists in Japan.
Exhibition I have seen: Hina Dolls of the Mitsui Family
I could tell here was something very special about this building, situated right next to the entrance of Mitsukoshimae station (三越前駅), and I was right – it had been designated an important cultural asset. It seems like wherever I go, these pop up, and maybe it is due to a number of cultural visits I do these days, but it is largely due to Japan is doing its best to recognise cultural and historical assets, which is an amazing thing.
Hina dolls are dolls given to little girls on the occasion of Hina matsuri, or girls’ day, where a tradition dating back to Edo (17th century) had them display dolls of the emperor and empress on an altar, accompanied with various luxury items. Because the displays are usually at home, I feared not to see any.
What was special about this exhibition is that since the Mitsui family dates back to Edo, I got to see some very old ones, as well as an evolution in the dolls style. I couldn’t take pictures, but they had some official pictures online of some of my favourite pieces, which now illustrate this article.
The museum itself is famous because they recreated the Jo-an tea house, a national treasure owned by the family. Originally constructed by Oda Nobunaga’s younger brother as part of a temple complex in Kyoto, it is one of the three nicest tea house in the country. In 1908, it was moved to the family’s residence in Tokyo, then to the countryside during the war in order to protect it. Since 1972, the Jo-an tea house has been relocated in the Urakuen gardens in Inuyama. I, of course, made a mental note to stop there if I can.
Also, the Memorial has a collection of some 4,000 items, that are alternatively on display. Again, a place worth returning to!