In the days leading up to March 3rd, known as Hinamatsuri ひな祭り, or Girls Day, many Japanese families display special ornamental dolls which have been passed down through generations. A tradition said to have existed since the Heian Period (794-1185), displaying these hina-ningyo dolls, representing the Emperor, Empress, and their attendants and musicians in traditional court dress, is meant to celebrate girls and express wishes for their happiness and healthy upbringing.

Although hina-ningyo displays at home are usually limited to seven tiers, there are public festivals throughout Japan where more impressive displays can be enjoyed. One of these is the "Big Hinamatsuri" event in Katsuura City, Tokushima. Now in its 30th year, the "Big Hinamatsuri" collects used hina-ningyo at the end of their "residence" from private homes around the country to create the largest, most impressive display of dolls you are ever likely to see. This year, an astonishing 30,000 dolls are on display in various platforms throughout the hall, including a pyramid platform featuring 100 tiers.

With the Tokyo Olympics coming up in 2020, some of the displays have signs showing support and perhaps to encourage girls to pursue Olympic aspirations. This one says "From Rio to Tokyo."

You can get a better sense of the event from this video:

The "Big Hinamatsuri" runs until April 8 this year, and also a features a varied schedule of events such as the famous Awa Odori which is native to the region, bands performing live and other types of traditional music and dance performances. The complete timetable is available here (in Japanese). For more information about the event, please visit their main page here.

In addition, for those who don't intend to travel to Tokushima Prefecture and are in the Tokyo area, a "sister" event called "Big Katsuura Hinamatsuri" is also organized in Katsuura City, Katsuura County, Chiba Prefecture (since 2001), less than two hours away from Tokyo by train. Details (in Japanese) are available here.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.