Japan Australia Pages

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hina Matsuri Japanese Doll’s Festival

March 3rd in Japan is a special day called Hina Matsuri (雛祭), a traditional Japanese festival also commonly known as Doll’s Festival or Girl’s Day. On this day, families with girls will display ornamental dolls in the hope of bringing their daughters a successful and happy life.

Platforms covered with a red carpet called hina-dan (雛壇) are used to display the set of ornamental dolls called hina-ningyō (雛人形). The dolls represent the Emperor, Empress and other court attendants in traditional court dress of the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan. The dolls are usually displayed on a five or seven tired stand with the Emperor and Empress at the top. The next step contains three court ladies (sannin-kanjo), followed by five musicians (gonin-bayashi), two ministers (udaijin and sadaijin), and three servants ending the bottom row in a five-tiered display.



Hina-dan with Hina-ningyo

The customs of Hina Matsuri is believed to have started early in the Edo Period (1603-1867). Over the years the hina-ningyo sets have become more elaborate and grand.

A custom of Hina Matsuri is to eat diamond shaped rice cakes called hishi-mochi. They are often displayed as an offering to help ensure the healthy growth and happy future of daughters. Hishi-mochi is pink, white and green. Pink represents the spring season and is for keeping evil spirits away, White represents snow and is for purity, and Green represents nature and is for good health and longevity.

Families will generally start to display the dolls in February, usually in their living rooms and take them down immediately after the festival on March 3rd. There is a superstition that if you leave the dolls out past March 3rd, it will bring bad luck and delay the girl’s marriage. A tradition on the day of Hina Matsuri is to drink sweet white sake called shirozake , and eat chirashi zushi (sushi rice topped with raw fish and other ingredients), hina-arare (colorful rice-crackers).

There are many different hina-ningyō sets here in Japan and they are usually quite expensive. Traditionally grandparents buy a set for a girl for her first Hina Matsuri (hatsu-zekku).

The picture below is of our hina-ningyō at the family home in Gifu. As you can imagine, it takes quite a lot of time to set-up.

Hina Matsuri display at the family home in Japan

I also found this cute hina-ningyō set at Gifu Castle in Gifu City.

Hina Dolls at Gifu Castle

You can also buy these cute Koala no March (コアラのマーチ) limited edition Hina Matsuri snacks that come with their own cute cut-out hina-ningyō set.

Koala no March limited edition Hina Matsuri Snacks

Cut out and make your own Hina Ningyo set

Hina Matsuri is a fun traditional festival here in Japan and is one that the whole family can enjoy. What will you be doing this Hina Matsuri?

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