Every year in early December, the annual Ningyo Kuyo or Doll Memorial Service takes place at Jyoukenji Temple in Nagareyama. People from around the area bring their traditional Japanese dolls, stuffed animals, and wooden kokeshi dolls that have served their families for many years, and are ready to be retired. The dolls are prominently displayed one last time before the temple monks perform a purification ceremony, where the “souls” of the dolls are released, and some of the dolls are then burned as a kind of funeral service.
Dolls play an integral role in Japanese culture, with many holidays that heavily involve dolls like, Girl’s Day with Hina Ningyou dolls and Children’s Day with Gogatsu Ningyou dolls. Many folks greatly bond with these dolls, and this ceremony is a very touching occasion where people and families say goodbye to them one last time.