A SPECIAL set of Japanese ornamental dolls have gone on display in the North-East for the first time.

The dolls represent the Emperor and Empress and their attendants in the traditional court dress of the Heian Period - 794 to 1185AD.

They are designed for display at Hina Matsuri, a traditional festival translated as Girl’s Day or Doll’s Day and celebrated every March 3, when families pray for the health and happiness of their young girls.

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The dolls’ stand is seven tiers high, with musicians, ministers, furniture and a carriage.

They were donated to Durham University’s Oriental Museum by a local Japanese family and will be on display until Monday, March 3.

Curator Craig Barclay said: “We are very excited to be able to share this beautiful set of dolls with our visitors for the first time this year.

“Today most families in Japan only have space to display a small set of dolls for Hina Matsuri.”

The museum, on Elvet Hill, Durham, is open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and noon to 5pm on weekends and bank holidays.

Entry costs £1.50 for adults, 75p for children aged five to 16 and over 60s and free for children under five and students.

There will be various Doll’s Day activities for families on Saturday, March 1, from 1pm to 3pm.

For more information, call 0191-334-5694 or visit durham.ac.uk/oriental.museum