This court musician doll is part of a Hinamatsuri (Girls' Day or Doll Festival) set of dolls. One of the gonin bayashi (five musicians), the doll would be positioned on the third tier in a traditional Hinamatsuri arrangement. The doll holds a drumstick in one hand and has a small taiko drum positioned in front of him on the base (not attached). He is wearing a red and gold brocade jacket and purple and gold embroidered pants. He is bald with a patch of hair on each side, tied in the back.
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 Hinamasturi 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, and 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 otsuzumi 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.