Girls Day in Japan Hinamatsuri



Annually celebrated on March 3rd in Japan, Hinamatsuri or the dolls festival is held to celebrate the growth, happiness and health of girls. Families with daughters display Hina dolls on tiered stands and eat food that brings good luck.

  • 01

    What is Hinamatsuri

    Hinamatsuri or otherwise known as “Momo no Sekku” (Peach Festival) is annually celebrated on the 3rd of March to pray for the growth and health of girls. This Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival) was originally one of the five seasonal festivals called the “Joushi-no-Sekku”. In ancient China, this day was called Imibi (the day of abstinence), and people used to purify their bodies by water to exorcize their sins. Around the Heian period (794-1185), this event was introduced to Japan, and became an event called 'Nagashi-bina', in which the evil was transferred to clay or paper dolls and washed away in water.

    It was not until the Edo period (1603-1867) that this became Sekku, and hina dolls were beautifully decorated in tiers and celebrated. However, it was only the samurai and noble families who celebrated in this way. It was only after the Meiji period (1868-1912) that this custom took root in ordinary households.

  • 02

    Displaying the Hina Doll

    There is no strict rule that the dolls must be arranged in such a way, but it is said to be modeled after the wedding ceremony of the Emperor and Empress. Therefore, each arrangement has its own meaning. The arrangements are different from region to region. For example, in the Heian period (794-1185), the emperor sat on the left (facing right) side of the queen. In today's Imperial family, the Emperor always stands to the right (left) of the Empress. If he sits, he does so on the right. From the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912) onwards, this rule was adopted in Japan in accordance with the West. In other words, Kansai (Kyoto) follows the old rules and Kanto follows the new rules, so it is difficult to say which is right and which is wrong.

    Kyoto Hina Doll
    On the left side is a male doll and on the right side is a female doll

    Kanto Hina Doll
    Female daisies on the left, male daisies on the right

    In the old days, many families decorated hina dolls with seven tiers of decorations, including three courtesans, five musicians, a bridal kit and many other objetcs. However, in recent years, due to changes in housing conditions and tastes, more and more families are choosing to display three-tiered dolls or two-tiered dolls.

    The standard period for displaying hina dolls is from early February to early March. Decorating dolls in the rainy season (mid-February) is considered good luck, while decorating dolls on March 2nd, the day before the Doll Festival, is considered bad luck and is called "overnight decorating".

    As long as you don't deviate too far from the standard decorations, you are free to decorate your Hina Doll in any way you like, whether it is traditional or modern.

  • 03

    Food That Brings Good Luck

    Hishi-mochi (rice cakes) and Hina-arare (sweet-flavored rice cracker)
    These two confectionaries are said to represent the arrival of spring. Hishi Mochi (rice cake) is made up of three different colors of rice cakes, from the top: peach(pink), white and grass coloured. It is said that the color of the rice cake represents the sprouting of new plant buds from under the snow and the blooming of peach blossoms. Peach(pink part) means "protection from evil", white means "purity and innocence" and grass means "healthy growth". Just like Hishi Mochi, Hina-arare also comes in the same three colors too.

    Hishi Mochi (rice cake)

    Hishi Mochi (rice cake)

    Hina-arare (sweet-flavored rice cracker)

    Hina-arare (sweet-flavored rice cracker)

    Chirashi Sushi

    It is a type of sushi in which a variety of ingredients, such as fish and shellfish, are scattered over a bed of vinegared rice. In ancient times it was customary to go to the sea or mountains to eat when the flowers were in bloom. It was a way of appreciating nature's bounty and taking its power into the body. Chirashi sushi may be a remnant of this custom as the ingredients are a mixture of both seafood and vegetables.

  • 04

    Recommended Hinamatsuri Events

    Saitama Prefecture
    Konosu Bikkuri Hinamatsuri is held in Konosu City, Saitama Prefecture usally between late February to early March. The city has a history of making hina dolls for about 380 years, and every year at this time, hina dolls are displayed at various parts of the city.
    At the main venue, "Elmi Konosu" next to Konosu Station, the hina dolls are displayed in a pyramid shaped tiered stands and is said to be the tallest in Japan. There are a total of 31 steps and a height of 7m. It's truly an amazing sight to behold.

    Saitama Pref
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    Chiba Prefecture
    Katsura Big Hinamatsuri is held at
    Every year From late February to early March, the entire city of Katsuura in Chiba Prefecture is filled with hina dolls for the Katsuura Big Hinamatsuri festival. The highlight of the festival is the carefully displayed 1500 hina dollson the long stone steps of Tomisaki Shrine. The huge hina-dan is so impressive that visitors would need panoramic lenses to shoot the entire dolls. From dusk onwards, the shrine is lit up, beautifully illuminating the dolls in their glittering costumes.

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