Photo/IllutrationThe large “okiage bina” dolls on display at the Kaho Gekijo theater in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture (Masahiro Kakihana)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

IIZUKA, Fukuoka Prefecture--Two massive dolls are stealing the show at the annual Hina Matsuri being held at the Kaho Gekijo playhouse here ahead of March 3 for the traditional Girls’ Day festival.

The pair of large “okiage bina” dolls each stand 2.4 meters tall and 2.7 meters wide and are placed on the front stage.

The event offers visitors a rare opportunity to dress up in kimono and take photos with the large dolls to share on Instagram and other social networking sites. The theater retains the design of Kabuki playhouses from the Edo Period (1603-1867).

The dolls were created by city resident Masaji Sonoda, 58. It marks the third time for the artist’s works to be put on display on the sidelines of the Iizuka Hiina no Matsuri festival. With foreign tourist numbers increasing, Sonoda decorated his works with a traditional Japanese theme this year at the request of Kaho Gekijo.

To create the two okiage bina dolls, the artist pasted pieces of patterned cloth on the surface of carved polystyrene foam before fixing the objects on the plywood to make the dolls semi-three dimensional.

In addition, narrative illustrations featuring the Ministers of the Right and Left, the three court ladies, five male musicians and other characters associated with Hina Matsuri are on display. The characters are modeled after figures portrayed in ukiyo-e woodblock prints by master artists such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Toshusai Sharaku, Utagawa Kunisada and Suzuki Harunobu.

“I wanted to make the okiage bina dolls large enough to surprise spectators,” Sonoda said. “I want them to enjoy my narrative illustrations and feel like they are traveling back in time to the Edo Period.”

Traditional kimono, hair accessories, cherry branches and other props for photo shoots are provided by the theater. Cherry blossom ornaments, gold-colored folding screens and other stage equipment also complement the exhibits.

“It’s cold outside, but we’ve made the interior of the theater full of spring at its height,” said Manami Ito, 60, who works for Kaho Gekijo. “We also want everyone to enjoy take photos with the stage equipment.”

The event runs until March 27. The venue is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 300 yen ($2.80) for junior high school students or older and 100 yen for elementary school students and children aged 3 or older.

Visit the theater’s official website at (