Today, I’d like to talk about “HINA-MATSURI”, a Japanese traditional festival held on March 3rd every year.
This is one of the five seasonal festivals “GO-SEKKU” like “CHŌYŌ NO SEKKU” (Chrysanthemum Festival) mentioned here.
HINA-MATSURI is an event to pray for sound growth of daughter(s) of a family displaying a set of dolls called “HINA-NINGYŌ”.
The origin of HINA-MATSURI is said to be the “HIINA-ASOBI” (a play with a dress-up doll) by small princesses of aristocrats during HEIAN Period.
Those little girls made pieces of paper or cloth into pretty KIMONOs for the doll and played with friends, on the other hand, however, those dolls were playing a role of a magical item for their parents who made the doll from papers and floated it down a river or sea as a scapegoat in order to expel impurities of their daughters.
Later, with the time changes HINA-NINGYO became more sophisticated, and made from higher-quality materials.
Except specific regions, no more custom to float it down a water, it is decorated at home to admire once a year instead.
In the modern times, HINA-NINGYO has been escalated to more and more gorgeous, called “DAN-KAZARI” (a display on a three to eight-tiered platform).
Taking a seven-tired platform for example which is quite common if you have enough space at home, on the top, “OBINA” (a male doll as Emperor) and “MEBINA” (a female doll as Empress) are displayed. On the both of right and left sides of this step, there are “BONBORIs” (Japanese lanterns) placed.
On the second step from the top, there are three court ladies called “SAN-NIN-KANJO” who take care of the Emperor and Empress.
Then on the third step form the top, there are five court musicians called “GO-NIN-BAYASHI” represented.
Then on the fourth step, two ministers are placed, the left called “SADAIJIN” (minister of the Left presiding over the Power) and the right called “UDAIJIN” (minister of the Right presiding over the Intelligence).
On the fifth step from the top, there are three old servants called “SHICHŌ”, taking care of all minor jobs of the court administration.
Interesting thing here is that each of these three dolls has different facial expression. The first looks angry, the second looks crying and the third looks smiling.
In the same manner as the KYOTO Imperial Court, a SAKURA tree (a cherry tree) on the left and a TACHIBANA tree (a mandarin orange tree) on the right are decorated on this step.
Then on the sixth and seventh steps, miniatures of furniture or other furnishings used at court are placed.
In addition, foods like “HISHI-MOCHI” (red, white, and green lozenge-shaped rice cakes) and “HINA-ARARE” (sweet colorful rice clackers) as well as a “SHIROZAKE” (white sake) are offered on the steps.
As the HINA-MATSURI is also called “MOMO-NO-SEKKU” (Peach-blossoms festival), peach flowers are displayed sometimes.
Due to the limited space of Japanese houses or condominiums in the city areas, recently the HINA-NINGYŌ consisting only of the first step (Emperor and Empress) or only of first and second steps (up to the tree court ladies) have become popular, meeting the demand of parents who live the urban life but still want to celebrate their daughter’s growth in a traditional way.
By the way, usually the HINA-NINGYŌ is offered from the mother’s side of the family when a baby girl has first HINA-MATSURI after her birth.
It is quite a hard-work to put up and take down a set of HINA-NINGYŌ every year, so after daughter(s) left the parent’s home to live alone or with her partner, the parents tend to become reluctant to put it out, storing it in the closet for years.
By the way, it is recommended to put away the HINA-NINGYŌ as soon as possible after March 3rd.
If you keep displaying the dolls long after the festival date, your daughter may have difficulty in getting married, according to a legend.
So, generally the dolls are supposed to be put out after “RISSHUN” (the calendrical beginning of spring which is February 4th) and put away by March 7th after having been displayed for a month.
Talking about HINA-MATSURI in my area: SAKURA city of TOCHIGI prefecture, a municipal event called “UJIIE HINA MEGURI” is held in this time of the year.
During this event, each shop displays in front of the shop their HINA-NINGYO which has been passed down for generations.
Number of tourists coming from outside stop by each shop to admire the dolls from door to door having the tour map in the hand.
This event starts from February 7th to March 8th and during this period, there are several sets of OBINA and MEBINA are represented together with dozens of “TSURUSHI-BINA” (dolls or luck-bringers made of cloths hang at the tip of a string) at the main site.
Finally, I’d like to invite you to see my HINA-NINGYŌs.
For this year’s HINA-MATSURI, I displayed a set of standing OBINA and MEBINA, “JIRŌZAEMON-BINA” which is quite rare and my work of “CHIRIMEN ZAIKU” (silk crape crafts)!