Information for, and an account of, visiting Japan’s largest Dolls festival display at the Konosu Surprising Dolls Festival or Konosu Bikkuri Hina Matsuri in Japanese. 鴻巣びっくりひな祭り。
Japan’s largest dolls festival pyramid display “Konosu Doll Pyramid” in Konosu, Saitama Prefecture, is just a 50 minute train ride from Ueno station in Tokyo. You can view the dolls display at the mall of Konosu station. They are part of a larger festival, called the surprising dolls festival. As part of that festival several places display hina dolls. For example, Kakyu No Sato also display hina dolls as well as hina matsuri hanging decorations.
The doll festival is celebrated on March 3rd, annually, for girl’s day in Japan. Each household with young girls display hina dolls from early February for the health and prosperity of their daughters. The dolls are particularly associated with marriage. Thus, there is a belief that if you display the dolls past March 3rd it will adversely effect your daughter’s future marriage potential.
Traditionally dolls came on tiered platforms, but nowadays, you can buy the dolls in cases. Most businesses and services, such as preschools and hospitals, display the traditional type tiered hina matsuri dolls from early February. In preschools it is very common for children to make paper or clay hina dolls in the season. Here are some free easy to make paper cup doll materials.
One of the largest displays of the traditional dolls is in Konosu, Saitama. It features Emperor, Empress and all the figures of the Imperial Court, as well as the ancient paraphernalia. Moreover, according to Konosu City, the Konosu prefectural doll’s pyramid display is the tallest hina matsuri dolls pyramid in the whole of Japan. There are 31 platforms and it is seven meters high. In 2022, there were 1582 dolls in the display.
For many years the main festival area was at the city hall. There they also had a display outside in the courtyard, some in cut bamboo, as well as a large display on a staircase inside. You could view hina dolls throughout the lobby and hallways of the ground and 1st floor of the City Hall. However, the main event area was moved to Elumi Shopping center several years ago. But the city hall still participates in the festival with some displays. Moreover, you can see Emperor and Empress motifs for the toilets of the city hall all year round!
Bikkuri Hina Matsuri 2023
The title of Konosu‘s famous girls day displays of dolls is very apt. Bikkuri Hina matsuri literally means “surprising doll festival“. When I walked into where they were hosted in 2015, I literally let out a very audible “WOW!” The displays are indeed surprising and also very impressive. Moreover, now that they are in Elumi Mall, they are easy to access and free to view.
In 2021, the event was initially declared cancelled, but they later revoked that and went ahead with the festival. It went ahead as normal in 2022 and it is scheduled again for 2023.
In 2023, the festival will be on from Friday February 17th to Saturday March 4th. The main display, that is the pyramid, will be in Elumi Shopping Center again in 2023. It is very easy to access as it is right beside Konosu train station. You can see it from 10 am to 9 pm daily except for the last day, March 4th, when it will be closed off from 3.30 pm.
There are also five satellite sites in 2023:
In February, on Saturday 18th, Sunday 19th, public holiday the 23rd and the weekend of the 25th there is a free ‘hina meguri’ loop bus that goes between the six pyramid sites. That is, Elumi to each of the five satellite sites listed above.
On Saturday February 25th from 1 pm (doors open at noon) there will be a free taiko concert at the Konosu City Culture Center, which also has an exhibition during the period of the dolls festival.
Konosu Doll Town
The municipality of Konosu celebrated its 60 year anniversary in 2015, but the area has a long doll making history, dating back approximately 380 years. Coupled with the famous hina doll displays, this has earned Konosu the nickname of “Doll Town”. There are different sites in Konosu displaying the tiered dolls of an Imperial court and/or palace. In 2015, we visited the largest at the Konosu City Hall, which was moved to Elumi mall in 2016. In subsequent years we have also visited the satellite sites, such as Kakyu no Sato and Cosmos Arena. Each have something different to offer, but the pyramid is by far the most dramatic.
Close to Elumi mall where the pyramid is, there is a library where you can relax over a book with coffee. There used to be a nice play area for small children too, but unfortunately that closed around 2020. But there are several cafes and restaurants including the budget family restaurant Saizeriya. They have a cinema in the complex too.
Event: Konosu Surprising Dolls Festival aka Bikkuri Hina Matsuri 鴻巣びっくりひな祭り
Date: from Friday February 17th to Saturday March 4th
Hours: 10 am to 9 pm
Venue: Elumi Shopping Mall, 1 Chome-1-2 Honcho, Konosu, Saitama 365-0038. View on Google Maps. Phone: 048-540-3333 (Konosu Tourism Association)
Information for the Kakyu satellite site here and for the Cosmos Fukiage Arena satellite site here.
The main site at Elumi Shopping Mall is located right beside the Konosu station which is on the Takasaki line. You can get a train from Ueno station in Tokyo that takes about 50 minutes. If you come by car there is plenty of parking. The main car park is open 24 hours. The first hour is free, but charged 100 yen per 30 minutes after that. But you can get your parking ticket validated if you shop in the mall.
Points of interest in Konosu:
- Disaster Training | An earthquake, a typhoon and a fire all in one day…;
- Kamiya Park, Playground, sports ground + Skateboarding
- Gallery Cafe Stork
- Annual Kõnosu Fireworks
- Hikari Distillery (on Nomunication website)
- Al fresco dining at Adomani cafe in Konosu
Dolls Festivals in Saitama