Camp Zama community learns of Dolls Festival during walking tour

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMarch 1, 2024

Keriann Creagh, left, and her daughter, Sloane, along with Caitlin Auten and her son, Harrison, admire the rows of dolls on display for the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," at the Zama Shrine in Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Keriann Creagh, left, and her daughter, Sloane, along with Caitlin Auten and her son, Harrison, admire the rows of dolls on display for the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," at the Zama Shrine in Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spc. Jean Leon, right, a dental assistant for U.S. Army Dental Health Activity-Japan, and his wife, Joselyn Miranda pose for a photo with their son, Aaron, in front of a doll display in celebration of the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," at the Zama Shrine in Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Jean Leon, right, a dental assistant for U.S. Army Dental Health Activity-Japan, and his wife, Joselyn Miranda pose for a photo with their son, Aaron, in front of a doll display in celebration of the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," at the Zama Shrine in Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Visitors to Zama Shrine admire the rows of dolls on display for the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," in Zama, Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Visitors to Zama Shrine admire the rows of dolls on display for the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," in Zama, Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

ZAMA, Japan – More than 30 Camp Zama community members participated in a walking tour Friday to the nearby Zama Shrine to experience a unique Japanese tradition that honors girls.

Each year, shrines across Japan attract crowds when they celebrate Dolls Festival, or “Hinamatsuri.” The festival allows parents to display intricate “Hina” dolls that represent their daughters as they pray for their growth and happiness.

Army Community Service staff hosted the free walking tour, guiding visitors to the shrine that featured thousands of dolls on its steep staircase and around the complex.

Maiki Mayhew, an ACS program analyst who led the tour, said her organization wanted to provide community members a cultural experience near the installation.

“I really hope while they’re in Japan they get to immerse in Japanese culture and take advantage of all the opportunities they have here,” she said. “It would be wonderful for them to engage with the local communities and make new friends, and, last but not least, explore the beautiful traditions that Japan has to offer.”

The Dolls Festival lasts for a few days until families take down the decorations after March 3, which marks Girls’ Day in Japan.

If a doll remains at the shrine for longer, it is believed to possibly result in a late marriage for the daughter.

The tradition believes that the elaborate dolls, which can cost between $500 to $10,000 for a set, rid away evil spirits to keep daughters safe from things like accidents and diseases.

Chenjia Yin, center, and her daughter, Erin Li, pose for a photo in front of a doll display in celebration of the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," at the Zama Shrine in Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chenjia Yin, center, and her daughter, Erin Li, pose for a photo in front of a doll display in celebration of the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," at the Zama Shrine in Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
The Zama Shrine displays thousands of dolls in celebration of the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," in Zama, Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Zama Shrine displays thousands of dolls in celebration of the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," in Zama, Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Visitors to Zama Shrine admire the rows of dolls on display for the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," in Zama, Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Visitors to Zama Shrine admire the rows of dolls on display for the Dolls Festival, or "Hinamatsuri," in Zama, Japan, March 1, 2024. The Army Community Service at Camp Zama hosted a walking tour to the shrine for community members to enjoy the festival. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

Chenjia Yin, an Army spouse, brought her daughter, Erin Li, on the tour for her to see the dolls up close.

“We wanted to bring her so she can learn more about the culture and especially since this is her festival," Yin said, smiling.

Yin said her family has been in Japan for only three months and they plan to travel around the country to understand more Japanese traditions.

“I think this makes us wiser,” she said, “and we can see things from a different side.”

Army spouse Keriann Creagh decided to have her daughter, Sloane, come along on the tour to broaden her horizon before she interacts with Japanese children in daycare.

“We're hoping to send her to Japanese daycare soon,” she said, “so we're just trying to immerse her into the culture as much as possible while we're here so she can get the most out of the experience.”

In addition to dolls for the daughters, the festival featured numerous dolls that represented an imperial family wedding in the Heian Period (794-1185), known as the last division of classical Japanese history.

The wedding displays at the Shinto shrine had red-carpeted tiers, with each tier featuring dolls that resembled servants, ministers, musicians and court ladies, and the emperor and empress at the top. Antique dolls from the Edo period (1603-1867) were also on display inside the shrine.

Creagh said she was impressed by the beauty and intricacy of the dolls on display. She also thanked ACS staff for explaining the meaning of the dolls to the tour participants.

“If I came her on my own, I would have never known the story behind them,” she said, “so it's nice that ACS had the event so that we can actually learn their cultural significance.”

Mayhew said ACS plans to host another walking tour to Zama Shrine in May in celebration of Boys’ Day.

During that festival, the shrine will display boy dolls and koi fish decorations to honor boys.

Mayhew said she hopes the event will be another opportunity for Camp Zama personnel to explore and interact with others outside the gate.

“It's not just about the cultural activities; it’s the connections that they make along the way by engaging with other community members,” she said. “We not only learn Japanese traditions, but we build bridges of friendship and understanding.”

[Editor’s Note: The Dolls Festival at Zama Shrine plans to run until March 3. The event is free and the shrine is a five-minute walk from Camp Zama’s Gate 1. The address is 1-chōme-3437 Zama, Kanagawa 252-0027.]

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website