March 1 - 3, 2024

Event Details

In partnership with Japan America Society of Iowa, join the Des Moines Art Center in celebration of Japanese Hinamatsuri Weekend! Hinamatsuri, a cherished Japanese traditional celebration, takes place on March 3 each year. Rooted in centuries-old customs, this festival originally emerged as a joyous occasion dedicated to commemorating the growth of family daughters and hoping for prosperity for the household. Central to the festivities is the arrangement of exquisite Hina dolls, symbolic representations of familial well-being and the blossoming of spring. View the traditional doll display in the Macomber Lobby of the Art Center throughout the weekend.

Modern Hinamatsuri serves as a moment to appreciate the enchanting beauty of traditional Japanese dolls that signal the arrival of the spring season. Moreover, it has acquired a broader significance, marking a time for gratitude and reflection on the passage of another year with good health, despite any obstacles.

The inception of this tradition goes back to a poignant era when indigenous stories recount a devastating epidemic claiming the lives of infant girls in villages. Faced with the absence of medical remedies, desperate parents turned to prayer as their only recourse. Crafting straw dolls, they strategically placed them within their homes, believing that when the ominous specter of disease loomed, these surrogate figures would be taken in lieu of their beloved daughters, sparing them from harm.

The Heian Era (8th – 12th centuries) witnessed the early inklings of the customs to play with dolls, particularly among girls in affluent households. However, it was during the Edo era (17th – 19th centuries) that a transformative shift occurred. Prosperous merchants, buoyed by financial success, engaged doll masters to craft elaborate family heirlooms. Doll masters created a collection of dolls inspired by the lifestyle of the Heian Era court. The ensemble included representations of the Emperor and Empress, three maids in waiting, five court musicians, two governors of the court, and various servants. The inclusion of three servants symbolizes the presence of a larger ensemble, comprising individuals of different ages—youth, middle age, and the elderly. This has become the standard display we recognize today—a set of 15 meticulously arranged Hina dolls, a testament to the enduring cultural legacy of Hinamatsuri.

This event is free, and registration is not required. Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All programs.


Des Moines Art Center
4700 Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50312 United States