One of the things that I have always wanted to see here in Japan is Ikaho's celebration of Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival. Unlike other celebrations (in one place I learned they fill up the entire shrine with different Japanese dolls) here at Ikaho they do it quite differently. Different in such a way that they dress up small kids to act out the part in a hina-ningyo - a term referring to the set of ornamental dolls used for the celebration. Last March 1st I had the opportunity to travel and see for myself this wonderful event. I've been to Ikaho for a couple of times, first one was last 2006 during autumn where I was surrounded by as astonishing array of trees in different colors and the second time was mid-March last year. Both trips where concentrated on sight seeing and onsen trips. This time I have devoted time to come back again specifically for the matsuri alone (well I did do some shopping too).
I took the early trip as the train service to Ikaho is not that frequent and if you miss it you have to wait, sometimes, almost an hour for the next train to arrive. Since I was a bit too early for the matsuri, I walked around and was hoping to do the Nature Trail. I took the rope way and checked out the sights at the top a midst the slippery path way (the entire place is covered in ice and I was only wearing my runners which made it quite difficult to walk around). Unfortunately though, the trail down hill was closed because of the snow so I have to get down by rope way good thing I don't have to pay again for the trip.
I overheard from the loud speakers (communities here in Japan still use that to announce information, you can even tell time by just listening to the sounds they play every turn of the hour) that the program won't start yet not until 12nn. I still have plenty of time so I went for a quick dip in the onsen. Good thing, there weren't that many people around at that time so getting completely naked is no fuzz. I am actually getting the hang of it really. I still have this one dream though to take a picture of the onsen to show around but I guess I am too afraid to even take a candid shot. Taking pictures in an onsen even if it is an open air or natural onsen is taboo, I just awe with wonder those people who were able to take pictures.
Anyways, by the time I left the onsen the program was already starting. I made a quick stop in a shop selling oden and boiled eggs and have a quick bite. Then took more pictures of my surroundings, checked out shops as I waited for them to set up the hina-ningyo. The kids will be out for a very short time only so everyone were looking for the best positions to take pictures. I think all in all including the setup time, the kids were only on stage for about 30 minutes. Some of them have to be carried and placed into position. Aside from the people, it's the wind that actually made it hard for me to take pictures. Sometimes I get a great angle or opportunity to take pictures (I was at the back and the only window of opportunity for me was when some people have to shook their heads, good thing I have a great lens) but then the wind will start to blow and the crew members will have to fix up the children's costume again.
I uploaded some of the pictures at my winkflash account under "Hina Matsuri 2008"(http://trek42577.winkflash.com/). For more information about Hina Matsuri (I want to write all about it but it will eat up my time, maybe next time) you could google it out and it will direct you to some interesting pages some of which are listed below: