The hinamatsuri, the dolls' and girls' day!

On March the 3rd, Japanese people celebrate the hinamatsuri, a special day on which are displayed beautiful dolls, representing the Emperor’s court. In Japan, dolls are believed to contain bad spirits and the custom to display them goes back to the 9th century. In fact, the hinamatsuri as celebrated nowadays, was born in the Edo era. In that period, showing the dolls on the third day of the third month was seen as a charm to ward off the evil spirits.

From February, in temples, shrines, and homes, people will display platforms covered with a red carpet and set ornamental dolls called “hina ningyou” dressed in traditional court dress. The displayed dolls will be taken down right after the festival as leaving the dolls past March 4th is a bad omen for the family’s daughter. Despite not officially considered to be so, the hinamatsuri is also considered as the day of girls and called the “Girls’ day”. This day does not figure among the Japanese holidays but is considered as a very important tradition.

The hinaningyou are passed down from generation to generation and used only during the hinamatsuri. On that day, people pray for the happiness and the well being of the girls. It is particularly important for families who have young daughters. The dolls are displayed on what is called a “hinakazari”, a tiered platform, and families will offer them rice crackers and food. On the highest level will be found the doll representing the emperor (odairisama) on the left and the impress (ohinasama) on the right. A golden screen is placed behind them, just like the real Imperial throne of the ancient court. On the second level are represented three ladies of the court, the “san nin kanjo” and on the third, musicians. The size of the platform, its number of steps and the dolls’ size may vary but most home will only present a one-step platform with 2 dolls.

During hinamatsuri people will eat sweet foods with white, pink and green colors, in particular, hishi mochi, a pounded rice cake. The green layer represents spring and life, the white color life longevity and fertility while the pink represents health and ward off the bad omen. The traditional drink is called amazake, a thick and beige beverage made from the fermented rice used to produce sake. As it does not contain alcohol, even kids can drink it.

Credit CC BY-SA 4.0:
Title: Kumamon Hina Dolls Flickr

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