Hinamatsuri Girls Day Celebration In Japan

Are you wondering what is Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan? It’s really an interesting festival. Read more about it here!

Hinamatsuri is celebrated on the 3rd of March every year, it is a very important festival in Japanese culture. On this occasion Japanese pray for their girl’s well-being and happiness. “Hina” in Japanese means doll. 

What is the purpose of Hinamatsuri?

Hinamatsuri is celebrated as Girl’s day in Japan on 3rd March every year to celebrate female babies and pray for their health and happiness. During Momo no sekku (peach festival) holidays, families display dolls dressed in robes and ornated of the ancient imperial court.

Families celebrate this festival by displaying ornamental dolls and by serving special food and gifts to the girls and guests. Let’s dig into the details of Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan.

Hinamatsuri: Girl’s Day Celebration In Japan

Reminiscence of Heian beauty dolls

Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan- What’s it about!

When a girl is born, Traditionally her parents or grandparents buy a set of Hina dolls for the baby and sometimes the newborn, also inherits some special dolls which have been part of the family for generations.

 It is also common for friends and other relatives to give traditional Hina dolls and accessories of the doll to the baby girl. Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan is celebrated enthusiastically.

From the end of February till the 3rd of March, these dolls are displayed on a tiered platform with a red carpet.

These dolls are dressed in traditional Japanese attire and display the imperial court of the Heian Period (A.D. 794 to 1185). It is believed that this tradition exists to ward off evil spirits. 

Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan
Source: Unsplash

There are no strict rules to celebrate this festival and families do it as per their convenience and most also have their own traditions.

Even though it’s not uncommon for this festival to be celebrated every year, it is a bigger festival when the girl is newly born. 

Many families invite their relatives and friends to celebrate this festival and they also serve traditional Japanese delicacies and children’s favourite food.

They also play games with children and guests which are formed along with Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan.

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The Origins of Hinamatsuri Festival

Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan, which represents the Heian period, also originated in the same period as a way to ward off evil spirits and misfortune.

It is said to be a Chinese purifying ritual, in which misfortune is transferred to the doll and the doll is then abandoned in the river to take off evil with it. 

This custom of floating paper dolls still exists in some parts of Japan. This custom is called nigashi-bina or hina- okuri or “doll floating”

This festival was originally also called peach festivals as the peach tree starts to flower in the month of march and peaches are also believed to ward off evil. Peaches still hold great significance in the festival. Peach blossoms are hung as decor on festivals too.

 The hanging motifs symbolize wellness and happiness. Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan is a day of happiness for all the girls.

girl day 2020 japan
Source: gotokyo.org

When the festival originated children used to play with paper dolls and thus paper dolls were displayed for Hinakazari but during the Edo Era ( 1603-1867) they were replaced with luxurious ceramic dolls beautifully dressed in royal Japanese attire. 

It is also a tradition on the mother’s side to give the Hina Doll set to the daughters at the time of the wedding to take with her, symbolizing health, growth and happiness in her married life. 

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How Is Hinamatsuri Celebrated: Display of Dolls 

The display of dolls on the tiered platform is the representation of the imperial court, dolls are kept in a hierarchy – top tier Emperor and Empress followed by their court of court ladies, musicians, ministers, and guards. 

This doll set might start small but families follow the tradition Hinakajari -which means they grow their doll set every year. Dolls are the main part of Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan

In public places, you can even see a grand display of dolls. Though at home, many families are choosing to opt only for shinnō kazari, a display where only odairasama and ohinasama are featured. 

Collecting Hina dolls can be very expensive, so it’s normal for people to go for Shinno Kazari, or a basic doll set and also following the practice of hinakazari.

Nowadays, inexpensive versions of doll sets are also available and even Disney versions of Hina dolls are available. Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan celebrates with different kinds of dolls tiered up.

Iwatsuki, in the city of Saitama, is very famous for crafting the Hina dolls. There are more than 50 shops that sell various kinds of Hina dolls. 

Traditionally., it is important to remove dolls as soon as the festival is over. There is a superstition that if the dolls will be kept out for long after the festival is over, then the family will have problems marrying off their daughter.

 Even though many Japanese families don’t believe in this superstition, yet they put off dolls as soon as the festival is over. 

This superstition started as to inculcate cleaning habits in young girls but for all practical purposes, it is wise to pack all the dolls soon after the festival is done before the hot and humid season begins to preserve the lifespan and quality of the dolls.

Once the festival is over, families also release paper dolls in the rivers in order to take off the evil spirit and pray that this will take away any misfortune, bad luck, and sickness. 

Japanese Pottery Hina Dolls with Three Court Ladies

hinamatsuri dolls for sale

Setting up, taking down and storing Hina dolls is a work of patience, space and requires a lot of care. That is why modern Japanese families are even opting for smaller sets. 

Related: Check out the Japanese concept of Ikigai that has a beautiful meaning, here!

The positioning of the Dolls 

Hinamatsuri altar is dressed beautifully like the Heian Period imperial court. Generally, there 5-7 tiers to the display.

The Topmost tier has Emperor and Empress dolls and has lamps on each side. In the next tier, it is the 3 court ladies ( san-nin kanjo), who are therefore the care of the Emperor and Empress. 

The next platform has court musicians ( go-nin bayashi) with their different instruments.

From the 4th platform onwards its court members and guards, displaying fruits, flowers, and gifts for the imperial court, vary from display to display and also on the size of Hinakazari. 

Miniatures of kitchen set and household furnishing are also displayed on lower platforms. Alters from Kyoto display kitchen utensils whereas in Toyota more lavish furnishings are seen on these tiers 

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A Tasteful Celebration: Food and Games 

Apart from displaying the dolls and entertaining guests, children during this festival also do parties and celebrations. Traditional Japanese food and children’s favorite food are cooked and served to the guests. 

There is no hard and fast rule as to what must be served but there are few delicacies that are generally prepared during this celebration. This is the fun part about Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan.

Hina Arare white and pink sugary rice cake, especially associated with this festival- pink cakes symbolize peach blossoms whereas white ones represent snow. 

Chirashi-zushiscattered sushi which is slightly sweetened. This sushi looks pretty anyway, but it is further decorated with pink rice. 

hinamatsuri food
Source: gotokyo.org

Inari sushi is another very popular dish served during this festival, rice stuffed in tofu pockets served with miso grilled salmon and cabbage salad. 

Ushiojiro, its soup which is salt-based and clamps are its main ingredients. It pairs well with Chirashi-zushi.

Shirosake – it’s a popular sake made of fermented rice and adults really relish it. 

People nowadays also buy decorative cakes and candies for the girls, making the entire festival look more elaborate. 

Since it’s a festival associated with kids, there are of course games that are played while having the celebration. One of the most popular games is called Kai-awase ( shell matching game). 

This game was played by the nobles in the Heian Era and is still popular to date. The purpose is to match the decorative clamps with each other, just like a memory goal game. 

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Hinamatsuri in Tokyo 

If you are visiting Japan during spring or around the time of Hinamatsuri, you can visit many places that are open to the public and have an elaborative display of the Hinakaari is done.  

Halls, malls and museums display dolls and celebrate the festival with the public. 

If you are just curious to see the display of such beautiful dolls, you must visit some of these places. 

You can also visit the very popular 100 steps display of vintage Hinamatsuri dolls at Meguro Gajoen Building. Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan is a very special occasion.

Hinamatsuri Girls day celebration in Japan is a sight to see and celebrate too.

Enjoy the festival. Happy Hinamatsuri!

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