Photo/IllutrationThe Hina dolls depict Heian Period nobles composing "waka" poems during the “Kyokusui no En” court ritual. (Tatsuo Kanai)

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

NARA--A rare set of Hina dolls from the late Meiji Era (1868-1912) is set to go on display for the first time here.

The set of 15 dolls is said to be a one-of-a-kind creation by master craftsman Ju-ni sei Mensho (12th generation of Mensho).

A long-established doll shop in Kyoto likely produced the set in 1907 at the request of Tojiro Seki (1864-1931), a Nara businessman, who gave the dolls to his granddaughter born in Tokyo in 1905 to wish her healthy growth and happiness.

It represents an imperial court ritual called “Kyokusui no En” (Feast of winding river), held during the Heian Period (794-1185) and cherished by the nobility of the time.

The dolls depict aristocrats clad in elegant kimono composing "waka" poems by the bank of a gently flowing river as well as others playing traditional musical instruments in the background.

The doll set was discovered when a relative of Seki's granddaughter was tidying a storehouse at her parents’ home in Tokyo, according to the Neiraku Museum of Art, which preserves the Isuien Garden created at Seki’s request in Nara.

The family donated the set to the museum after they learned about its history.

The set features a variety of figures, ranging from a youngster to an old woman. The dolls' costumes also come in a wide variety of styles and patterns.

The dolls include court musicians playing a flute, a drum, a koto and a biwa (Japanese lute), an oval-shaped oriental stringed instrument.

The set measures about 3.6 meters in length and is 70 centimeters wide.

“A Hina doll set placed in a natural setting and not on a tiered 'hinadan' platform is rare,” said Naoteru Hayashi, director of the Japanese dolls culture research institute.

“The set is in a remarkable state of preservation. Seki was able to have these exquisite dolls created because he was a highly cultivated man."

The dolls will be displayed from Feb. 4 through March 3 at the Isuien Garden. The garden is closed on Tuesday.