This gosho-guruma, or ox-drawn carriage, is part of a set of figures for a Hinamatsuri (Girls' Day or Doll Festival) display. The two-wheeled cart is made of black lacquer with gold designs (including peonies, peaches, and fans); it has red window shutters with tassels and a ladder leading up to the back of the cart. An orange (possibily faded from red) and white cord with tassels at the ends is wound through the handles of the cart, largely obscuring the miniature ox from view. The wooden base is covered in red fabric and there is a small table on the left side of the ox made of black lacquer with gold designs. It is modeled after the kind of ox-drawn carriage favored by Heian period (794-1192) nobility. In a traditional Hinamatsuri arrangement, the gosho-guruma would be placed on the sixth tier with furniture models.
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 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 akakebanzen (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.