Most of the year the Hyakudan staircase at the historic Gajoen hotel-restaurant-restored extravaganza in Meguro is closed except by special appointment. But through March 3 it’s open to the (paying) public as the rather amazing venue for a rather amazing display of antique Hina Matsuri dolls.
For the price of admission (adults ¥1,500; students ¥800) you get not only the rare chance to see the staircase and the seven lavishly decorated rooms along it, but also a selection of beautifully crafted and unusual dolls from Echigo (present-day Niigata), Shinshu (Nagano) and Tochigi. Many of these dolls have never been displayed outside of the homes of their respective owners.
You aren’t supposed to take pictures, so I left my camera at home and nabbed these photos off less obedient attendees who posted them on the internet. The staircase was completed in 1935 and has 99 steps, even though the name means “100-step staircase.”
The exhibit space looks like this, except with a lot of people rubbing elbows as they ooh-and-ah over the dolls. This photo is actually from an earlier year; this is the fourth Hyakudan Hina Matsuri, each of which has featured dolls from different parts of the country.
Here’s a little architectural detail:
Be prepared for cold (the exhibit area is unheated), crowds (I went on a weekday morning at 10:30 and it was already full) and to carry your shoes with you (the flooring is tatami; plastic carry sacks are provided).
I was quite taken by the dolls of the Meiji Emperor and Empress in Western dress:
And charmed by the hanging sort of dolls called “tsurishi hina” or more properly 雛のつるし飾り（hina no tsurishigazari）.