Hina Matsuri: Day of the dolls

February 17th, 2012By Category: Culture

Image: Wikipedia

Between now and March 3, you are bound to see a display of Hina dolls wherever you go in Japan. Hina Matsuri celebrates “Girls’ Day” on March 3. On that day, families pray for the future happiness and prosperity of their girls by displaying “hina-ningyo” and peach blossoms.

 The custom of displaying dolls can be traced back in the Heian period (794-1185). People believed that the dolls could sacrifice themselves to contain bad spirits instead of the owners. The Hina Matsuri originated from the ancient Japanese custom, Hina-nagashi, in which straw or paper Hina dolls are placed in a boat which is carried down a river to the sea (hopefully taking and bad luck with it).

Today, most homes with young girls display their Hina dolls. The arrangement of the dolls differ by area, but commonly a five or seven-tiered stand covered with a red carpet is used.

All the dolls wearing Heian period kimonos with gorgeous accessories. On the top tier, the emperor and empress are placed with a gilded screen behind them. The second tier holds the three court ladies (“san-nin kanjo”) bearing sake. On the third tier, five musicians (“gonin-bayashi”) are placed. The fourth tier holds two ministers (“udaijin” and “sadaijin”). On the fifth tier, three servants stand as the protectors of the emperor and empress. On the sixth tier, there are chests for storing kimonos, drawers, a mirror stand and tea ceremony set. At the bottom, the seventh tier holds lacquered food boxes, a palanquin and an ox-drawn carriage.

 It is very popular for grandparents of girls to give them a set of the dolls. It is considered better for families to start displaying the dolls in February and putting the dolls away immediately after the festival is over because it is believed that leaving the dolls on display past March 4 will cause the daughters to marry late.

 At the Hina Matsuri, families usually eat “chirashi-zushi” (scattered sushi) and “sakura-mochi” made from rice powder, sweet bean paste and salted cherry leaves. “Hina-arare,” colored rice crackers flavored with sugar is another customary delicacy for the festival. There is also a customary drink, called “shirozake,” made from fermented rice. On the occasion of the Hina Matsuri, a famous song, “Let’s light the lanterns, let’s set peach flowers” is sung.

There is also a festival for boys on May 5, called “Tango no Sekku.” So, boys, please celebrate the Hina Matsuri for girls and wait until your turn.

Where to see displays of Hina dolls

 1. Katsuura in Chiba (http://www.enjoytokyo.jp/amuse/event/411779/)

2. Misono park in Yokohama (http://www.enjoytokyo.jp/amuse/spot/l_00010197/)

3. Kanda river in Tokyo (http://www.enjoytokyo.jp/life/event/559096/)

4. Nezu museum in Omote sando (http://www.nezu-muse.or.jp/jp/event/index.html)

5. Meguro gajoen in Tokyo (http://www.megurogajoen.co.jp/event/)

6.Kaisei Hina Matsuri in Kamakura (http://www.kaisei-hinamatsuri.com/)

7. Kounosubina in Saitama (http://kounosubina.main.jp/)

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