This court guard figure is part of a Hinamatsuri (Girls' Day or Doll Festival) set of dolls; it would be positioned on the fifth tier in a traditional arrangement. The doll represents the army and is dressed in a gold brocade kimono with red-lined sleeves, wears his gray hair tied in a topknot, and carries arrows on back and a sword in his lap. He has a long, gray beard; the color of his hair signifies his rank. He is positioned on a standard black lacquered base with gold decorations.
A composition doll is made of a material called "composition," which is made from a mixture of sawdust, glue, and other materials such as cornstarch, resin, and wood flour. Originating in the 19th century, composition dolls were marketed as unbreakable, as the material was sturdier than previously used substances.
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.