In Japan, we have some unique holidays such as “Girls Day” on March 3rd and the “Chidrens Day on May 5th.
The Girls day is on March 3rd. We have several names to call this day, Hina-matsuri, Momono-sekku.
Hina-matsuri is the Festival of Dolls. Hina means “Doll” and Matsuri means “Festival.
Most of families with young girls will celebrate the health and happiness of girls. It is a special day for girls as well as all family members.
How we celebrate this joyful day
On this day, families display special dolls known as Hina-ningyo on Hina-Matsuri.
The Hina-ningyo dolls used to be placed on a several tiered like descending stairs in old days. Most of the families have their own family “Ohinasama” set and this will be passed onto the next generation of the family as a family treasure.
The dolls depict the imperial court. Hina Ningyo represents the Emperor, Empress, their servants, court ladies, musicians, ministers, etc. A set of dolls includes the Emperor, the Empress, three court ladies, five court musicians, the minister of the left, the minister of the right and three servants.
There many rules to display dolls, for example, the Emperor is positioned to the left and Empress is right side (view from the front of display).
In Kyoto, the position of the Emperor and The Empress is in reversed position.
Today, the doll sets are smaller with fewer dolls. A smaller set of Hina dolls are suitable for small modern houses. There is another reason for it, purchase a whole of the Hina-ningyo set costs fortune. Younger couple does not see value to have such extravagant dolls.
In general, customarily a Hina dolls set will be presented by the grand parent of the mother’s side.
What a family would do on the Girl’s Day
Displaying Hira dolls is the major event of this day.
Besides of this, special meals are prepared. Chirashi-zushi, Hishimochi, Hina Arare and so on.
Chirashi-zushi is a kind of sushi with many scattered toppings such as salmon roe and sashimi on vinegar rice.
Modern families celebrate the day by eating spring like sushi-dishes and create a Hina-matsuri inspired cakes.
Hishimochi are diamond-shaped rice cakes and their colors are pink, white and green Hishimochi, Shirozake (rice wine) and peach flowers are displayed together.
Hishimochi is a rice cake colored in pink, white and green and it is prepared only for Hina-Matsuri.
Today, we eat traditional dishes like Scattered sushi(chirashi-sushi), clam soup, sweet white sake(Shirozake), rise cookie (Hina Arare) and diamond-shaped rice cakes(Hishimochi) for the Doll’s Festival.
Some families have a small party by inviting their daughter’s friends usually girls and eat special meals and sing a Hinamatsuri song.
Some other rules
The dolls are usually set up at around Imbolc day, or sometime by 24th of February.
It is said that Hina ningyo take away the bad luck of girls who own them.
People put away Hina Ningyo as soon as Hinamatsuri is over.
It is believed that if people put away Hina Ningyo too late, the girl will get married late in the future.
There no certain day to put away Hina-dolls. It varies by location and area. Some say March 6th is the day. Only one thing is clear, Japanese family does not display the Hina-dolls throughout of the year.
Ohina-dolls after the fire
Mainking “Ohinasama” dolls are very popular in our pottery class. The pictures in this article is dolls made by myself or classmates.