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Traditional Weaving: Exhibit of Nabeshima Carpets with Hinamatsuri Girls Day Festival Dolls

Carpet making is an ancient craft and can be traced back to Mongolia and Turkestan from around 4000 BC. However, it was not until the Edo period (1603-1868) that it was introduced to Japan.
It is said that the first carpets in Japan were made in Saga by Nabeshima Dantsu, approximately 300 years ago. Artisans from Saga traveled to Nagasaki to learn the art of carpet making. Why Nagasaki? Well at the time, Japan existed in a state of self-imposed national isolation, and the only official contact with the outside world was through traders in Nagasaki. Consequently, any new information and technology from abroad entered Japan through this small port. The tradition of carpet making which these Saga artisans learned in Nagasaki was brought to Saga and has been handed down from generation to generation since.
Nabeshima carpets
At the time that carpets were introduced to Japan, they were considered as an extremely valuable commodity and the sale of carpets to ordinary people was prohibited. Now, anyone can enjoy these traditional handicrafts. However, because each article is carefully hand-woven using traditional methods, they are considerably more expensive than machine-woven carpets.
If you visit Saga during the months of February and March you will have the opportunity to visit an exhibition of Nabeshima Dantsu during the Hinamatsuri festival. Each year Saga hosts a Hinamatsuri exhibition during these two months to celebrate girls day (March 3rd). Traditionally, households into which girls are born, display ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress and attendants, dressed in the traditional court dress of the Heian period. In this exhibition, an array of antique dolls, primarily from the Nabeshima family (the Domain Lord during the feudal period), lovingly preserved, are on display for everyone to see. One section of the exhibition is decorated with Nabeshima Dantsu carpets.
This exhibition is housed in one of Saga’s historic buildings, the former Sansho bank.
old bank gate
An exquisite carpet adorns the entrance to the exhibit. This type of large ornate pattern is characteristic of Nabeshima Dantsu carpets.
display 2nd floor
Inside, a variety of carpets are displayed with the dolls.
It is rather rare to see such a combination.
display carpets
dall
Fukuwarai is a game traditionally played at New Year in which pieces of a face are moved around to create different expressions. This one has been made entirely from Nabeshima Dantsu.
fukuwarai game
On the first floor is a tea room where you can relax on an authentic Nabeshima Dantsu with a cup of Japanese tea.
tea
It is also possible to watch the craftsmen at work while they create these traditional crafts. Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take photographs but it is fascinating to watch the craftsmen at work.
If you visit during the Hinamatsuri festival you will have the opportunity to see, feel and enjoy this traditional craft.

Information

Saga Hinamatsu festival Chokokan, Saga City Cultural Museum
Address:  2-5-22 Matsubara, Saga city
Telephone: 0952-20-2200
Date: Held every year from mid-February to mid-March.
Opening hours: 10:00 ~ 17:00 (Different to the building’s normal opening hours)Usual opening hours: 9:30 – 16:00
Regular Holidays: The Chokokan is closed on Sundays, National Holidays, New Year holidays and before exhibitions for preparation
Access 1: 20 min walk from Saga station
Access 2: 10 min bus ride from Saga bus center
Access 3: 20 min by car from Saga Yamato IC (Nagasaki Expressway)
Distance to airport: 11 km from Saga Airport
Menu Language: Japanese

※ There are several other locations where you can view Hinamatsuri exhibits.

  • Advance passport ticket: 500 yen. For admission to the Chokokan and the buildings of the Saga City Cultural Museum. On sale from January 15th ~ February 14th.
  • Passport ticket: 600 yen. For admission to the Chokokan and the Saga City Cultural Museum buildings.
  • Chokokan admission: 300 yen.
    ※ This ticket can be used up until March 31st.
  • Saga City Cultural Museum buildings admission: 400 yen
    ※ Free admission for children under the age of 12.

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