This court servant doll is part of a Hinamatsuri (Girls' Day or Doll Festival) set of dolls. In a traditional Hinamatsuri arrangement, the doll would be positioned on the fifth tier. The doll has a white composition face, red painted lips, and black hair tucked under a skiff. He wears a narrow hat tied under his chin with a gold cord. His hands, legs, and feet are also made of composition. The doll's left leg is crossed in front, and his right leg is bent at the knee; he is barefoot. The doll is wearing a tan silk kimono with wide sleeves and a green trim, and purple pants underneath the kimono. His arms are bent at the elbows and positioned in front of the body, and he is holding a yari (spear/lance). The pole of the yari runs through the doll's hands and rests on his right shoulder. The doll sits on a rectangular black lacquer stand with gold floral decorations on the front and two sides (no back panel).
Hinamatsuri, the Doll Festival or Girls' Day, is held annually on March 3 to celebrate the happiness and health of young girls. The holiday originated during the Edo period (1600-1868) to ward off evil spirits, and at some Hinamatsuri festivals today, people release paper dolls into the rivers to carry away sickness and bad fortune.
Setting up a display of special festival dolls in the house is fundamental to the festival; the display is usually put up in mid-February but put away as soon as the festival ends because of old superstitions. Hinamatsuri dolls wear Heian period (794-1192) clothing, and are placed in specific locations on a one-, five-, or seven-tiered platform covered with red felt (depending on the number of dolls owned). On the top tier, the emperor and empress dolls are placed in front of a miniature gold folding screen. The second tier holds the sannin kanjo, three ladies-in-waiting dolls, with takatsuki (round tables) holding sweets in between them. The gonin bayashi (five musicians) stand and sit on the third tier, playing a small taiko drum, a large ōtsuzumi drum, a kotsuzumi hand drum, or a yokobue (flute); the fifth musician is an utaika (singer). On the fourth tier are the daijin (court ministers): a young Minister of the Right and the older Minister of the Left, with a hishidai diamond-shaped table and a kakebanzen (covered-bowl table). The fifth tier features guards and/or servants amid a sakura (cherry tree) and an orange tree. The final two tiers hold an array of items, including clothing chests (nagamochi and tansu), hibachi braziers, tea ceremony utensils, and carriages/palanquins, among others.
"Composition" refers to a material made from sawdust, glue, and other materials such as cornstarch, resin, and wood flour. Composition dolls, originating in the 19th century, were marketed as unbreakable, compared to earlier more fragile dolls.