Spring is right around the corner and with it we get our final winter festivals. Japan’s finishing off this season with a festival commonly known as a harbinger of spring, the Doll’s Day or otherwise called Girls’ Day, the Hinamatsuri!
The Doll’s day is a special day for families especially if they have young daughters, maybe not as much for others but it is still enjoyed and appreciated nonetheless. On this day parents pray for their daughter’s wellbeing, health and luck and the children get to have some fun too! Even though every region has its own way of celebrating, they usually all include dolls and sweets.
The Doll’s festival, according to some, originated in the Heian period, a time when people believed that dolls had the power to control evil spirits. People would put the dolls in rivers and let them float away along with the spirits to rid the girls and town of evil. This tradition still exists in some areas, however, they are sent out to sea and then later retrieved, and then returned to a temple and burned according to a newer ritual.
Like most things in Japan, even the smallest details have an important significance. For instance, the doll’s placement actually indicates their role in what usually represents a Heian period wedding.
The top platform: This is where obviously the two main dolls sit, the dairi-bina. Contrary to what some may think, they do not actually represent the imperial family even though they’re formally known as the imperial dolls.
The second platform: This place is reserved for the san-nin kanjo, who represent three court ladies who serve drinks to the previously mentioned two.
The third platform: This holds the go-nin bayashi, the musicians of the court who each hold an instrument except for the singer, who just holds a fan.
The fourth platform: On this one we have two dolls sitting. Two ministers, daijin, who are also known as the dairi-bina’s bodyguards. They have the honor of sitting next to tables with gifts for the two main dolls.
The fifth platform: Here sit three helpers or protectors, known as the shicho of the couple. One is a crying drinker while the other is an angry one. Placed on this platform you’ll also find a mandarin orange tree and a sakura tree.
The bottom platforms: Displayed here are a variety of items used within the couple’s household, included but not limited to furniture, mirrors, sewing kits, storage chests and mirrors.
Although the festival focuses around five primary locations around the town, it seems the whole community gets into the hinamatsuri spirit. The two must-see doll displays are at the Katsuura City Art and Cultural Exchange Center, which exhibits over 6,000 dolls, and at the Tomisaki Shrine, which has a stone staircase displaying even more dolls and accessories.
The Hishimoshi: Made out of a Moshi base, these three layered sweets represent the spring scene, which is right around the corner. The green layer represents the sprouts, the white one represents the snow and the pink one represents the peach flowers.
The Hina arare: These sugar coated rice crackers are a hit especially to the children since they’re sweet, pretty lightweight and their colorful presentation makes them even more fun!
The Hamaguri: If you’re looking for something that’s more of a meal than a snack then this dish might be the perfect choice. It’s an Asian hard clam soup and some believe that it’s symbolic for happy relationships with how all the clams have two matching sides and no couple is like the other.
History and cultural significance
The Girls’ Festival came to life when the Empress Meishō succeeded her father. It started when the court ladies set up doll’s for her to play with and the local puppet makers rode off that idea when the Girls’ day became a national holiday and started producing more and more beautifully equipped and arranged dolls.
Now people celebrate it by letting the Doll’s float away, taking with them any bad omens, and hosting parties for their daughters to enjoy with their friends.
The Hinamatsuri started out as one of the five sekku, otherwise known as seasonal festivals. Influenced by the Chinese philosophy, these festivals would fall on the first day of the first month, the third day of the third month and following that pattern they’d finish off the rest of the months that land on uneven numbers.
The Girls’ day, also known as Doll’s day was actually called momo no sekku, or peach festival, and corresponded to the start of spring where the peach blossoms would start to bloom. The actual peach blossoms festival that the Japanese currently celebrate is now held during mid April and early May.
There’s also an anime that is called hinamatsuri but it’s not really about the festival. It’s more of a comedy slice of life anime that revolves around a yakuza member who takes care of a young psychic girl, so let’s not confuse the two!
JET Press Team