In this memory, it is spring just before I turn six. On the couch inside our tiny half-dilapidated apartment is the decoration of traditional Japanese dolls to celebrate our March holiday hinamatsuri. These are expensive dolls that my grandmother bought us shortly after I was born, and they are usually carefully stored in a box to avoid becoming a toy of me and my little brother. But once a year my mother takes them out to celebrate the holiday.
The dolls recreate a scene of an ancient wedding of a noble couple, with the bride and the groom wearing most intricate traditional costumes followed by three bridesmaids, who are also dressed in beautiful traditional costumes made of silk. The official wedding scene actually involves more people, my mother tells me, but because our space is limited, your grandmother chose the dolls with only two layers, the couple and the three bridesmaids.
These dolls are so beautiful that I cannot take my eyes off. I sit by the couch, facing the dolls intimately. Their eyes are so lively that I feel as if they might start moving at any moment. I look at the bride’s beautiful long black hair. I’m not allowed to play with her, but I gently run my hand over her long smooth hair and wonder to myself why she looks so elegant and beautiful. I then observe everybody’s hands. They are all shaped in different ways because they all carry different items – a fan, a stick, a pot, a ladle, a plate of food.
As I watch them closely, I start to feel as if I were part of their world, sitting among them, participating in this ancient wedding. I hear the sound of the flute and the drum played by the five musicians that my mother told me about. Though they are not part of our doll set, I can imagine them sitting right after the three bridesmaids.
And I wonder to myself how magical it is that these dolls have just transformed our tiny couch into the gorgeous world of an ancient wedding scene.