Emperor and Empress during the Nagashibina at Shimogamo shrine.

Maiko releasing dolls during the Nagashibina at Shimogamo shrine.

March 3rd is Hina Matsuri, or Girl’s Day in Japan, and households with young daughters often have a special set of dolls called hina ningyō for this very occasion.  These dolls aren’t for playing so much as for display, lined up on a lacquered, tiered staircase in the order of their rank representing the old Heian-style Japanese court, with Odairi-sama (Emperor doll) and Ohina-sama (Empress doll) on the top and various courtiers, musicians, and warriors on the levels below.  

At Shimogamo Shrine in northern Kyoto, the Nagashibina festival is held on Girl’s Day each year.  For this celebration, a man and a woman dressed in old court-style regalia, much like hina ningyō dolls themselves, take paper dolls in specially woven reed baskets and place them into the sacred stream flowing through the Shimogamo grounds.  Once the head priest, Odairi-sama, and Ohina-sama have begun the procession, influential members of the government and community are invited to take their turn, and geiko and maiko also participate. 

Girl praying during the Nagashibina at Shimogamo shrine.

The act of laying the doll in the water and letting it float away is supposed to serve as a prayer for a girl’s health and growth and protects her by attracting negative forces to follow the doll in her stead.  Said to have begun in the Heian period more than eight hundred years ago, the Nagashibina is a lovely, serene festival to observe. 

You’re not limited to only observing if you wish  those who go to Shimogamo Shrine for this event can participate and purchase a reed basket of dolls to send down the stream.  Even Kyoto Tower’s mascot Tawawa-chan takes a turn!  For your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your young cousin, or even just for the photo opportunity, you should consider giving Nagashibina a try.

Things to See/Do

  • Shinto Ritual

  • Period Costume

  • Concert


March 3rd, 11:00

Notice: In 2021, the event was canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Shimogamo Jinja


〒606-0807 京都府京都市 左京区下鴨泉川町59

TEL 075-781-0010
FAX 075-781-4722


  • General Admission: Free


  • General Admission: 6:30 – 17:00 (may change depending on the season)
  • Closed: No closing days


  • Keihan Main Line ⇒ Demachiyanagi Station ⇒ 10 minutes walking
  • City Bus Route 4 ⇒ Shimogamo Jinja-mae Bus Stop