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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Japan Tours and Life Style

Hinamatsuri: Japanese girls’ Day

Hinamatsuri, also known as Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day, is a religious holiday celebrated on 3 March each year in Japan. On red carpet-covered platforms, ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians, all dressed in traditional Heian court attire, are displayed. This Japanese holiday is dedicated to girls and their family hopes for a better and brighter future. Hinamatsuri is one of Japan’s most beautiful unofficial holidays. A day on which Japanese households with young daughters decorate their homes with ornamental dolls (Hina dolls) disposed on the red-cloth-covered platform and pray for girls’ prosperity, health, and, traditionally, a stable and successful marriage.

Origin of hinamatsuri

Origin of hinamatsuri

In Japan, this tradition dates back to the Edo period (1603-1876), when dolls were used to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays, they are displayed out of tradition rather than as lucky objects. They are often handed down from generation to generation. The items are brought out of storage for a few days and then placed back in storage until the next year.

As with many festivals around the world, today’s Hinamatsuri derives from the fusion of various ritual festivals, and like most cultural events in Japan, it has been heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy and tradition.

Its origins can be traced back three thousand years to China. Chinese calendars classify some days as auspicious while others are as unlucky. In the Yin-Yang philosophy, the first day of mi (serpent) in March is inauspicious. To avoid misfortune, people washed their hands and feet in lakes, seas, and rivers on this day.

It was around this time that people began making human images out of paper or grass and applying their impurities to these Katsuhiro (paper images) or hitogata (shape of a man). The origin of the Hina dolls is the “Joshi-Setsu” festival in China, and the “Nagashibina” event, in which dolls that receive disasters and troubles on behalf of people are sent to the river, is held in the Imperial Palace during the Heian period. It is said that it was born from a combination of several events, such as one of the popular doll games, “Hina Asobi”.

After this practice came to Japan, people would stroke these images on their bodies, transferring their impurities to them, and then set them adrift in the sea (a practice still practised at the Awashima Shrine in Wakayama).

In the Edo period, craftsmen developed doll-making techniques. Hina dolls used for the Hinamatsuri have also evolved into beautiful and elaborate replicas, and gradually the Hina dolls have changed from being thrown into rivers to being cherished within homes.

Gorgeous Hina dolls are now added as one of the wedding tools when marrying to the samurai’s house, and the house that can carry expensive Hina dolls can prove wealth, other than male and female chicks.

There were further evolutions. The custom of including a set of Hina dolls in a bride’s dowry, and holding a Hina Matsuri on the first third of March of her marriage at the home of the family into which she had married, began to be practised. Some might say that the day is now a celebration of all womanhood regardless of age. Since these dolls are really expensive, families decorate dolls that have been passed on from generation to generation and new Hina dolls are only bought for a new baby girl in the family.

Customs and practices

Customs and practices
 Families with girls usually construct a special altar referred to as a hinadan, a platform covered in a red carpet with rainbow stripes at the bottom called dankake) or himosen

It is decorated with Hina ningyo dolls, representing the Emperor and Empress, attendants, court officials, and musicians dressed in court regalia of the Heian period. As part of their roles, each doll has specific accouterments (e.g. fan for the Empress, sword for the Emperor, sake box, ladle, musical instruments), and their placement is also predetermined.

Peach blossoms may also be used to decorate the altar. There may also be an offering of hishimochi, a special sweet associated with the hinamatsuri. Mochi usually has three layers – pink on top, white in the middle, and green on the bottom – and is diamond-shaped. bottom. Plum blossoms are represented by pink, while waning winter is symbolized by white, and spring is symbolized by green. Hishimochi may have 5 or 7 layers and contain yellow in certain parts of Japan.

In general, families display the dolls in February on an auspicious day and remove them immediately after the festival. If the dolls are left on display after March 4, it is believed that they will delay the girls’ marriage or bring bad luck to them. During Hinamatsuri and the preceding days, girls hold parties with their friends. Typical foods include hina-arare (multi-colored rice crackers), chirashizushi ( raw fish and vegetables on rice in a bowl or bento box), hishi mochi ( multi-coloured rice cakes), ichigo daifuku strawberries wrapped in adzuki bean paste), Sakura mochi and ushio jiru ( clam soup, as clamshells, represent a joined pair). The customary drink is shirozake (“white sake”), also called lit. “sweet sake” ( amazake), a non-alcoholic sake.

Placement of Hina dolls

Placement of Hina dolls
Depending on family tradition and location, dolls are typically placed in a different order from left to right, but the order of dolls in each level is the same. The layer of covering is called dankake or simply hi-mōsen, a red carpet with rainbow stripes at the bottom. 

First or top position

Two imperial dolls are displayed on the top tier. The word dairi means “imperial palace”. The obina (emperor) holds a ritual baton (shaku) and the medina (empress) holds a fan. The pair is also known as tono and hime (lord and princess) or Odairi-Sama and Ohina-Sama (honoured palace official and honour doll). They are sometimes referred to as Emperor and Empress, but they are only representing the positions and not the individuals themselves.

The Empress costume is called “juuni-hitoe” ( twelve-layered ceremonial robe). The Royal family in Japan wears it during wedding ceremonies even nowadays.

The two are usually placed in front of a gold folding screen byōbu, these folding screens are very common in Japan for any type of decoration. They’re often also used to display the zodiac of the current year. It is optional to decorate lampstands or lanterns having plum or cherry blossom patterns to represent the spring. In a complete set, you may also find artificial peach branches put into two vases and set up between the Emperor and the Empress. 

The emperor was traditionally positioned on the right side from the viewer’s perspective, but in a modern display, he’s positioned on the left. 

Second position 

The second tier holds three court ladies sannin kanjo who serve sake (alcohol) to both male and female dolls. Two of them are standing with serving utensils, one with a long handle and the other with a short one. The third-placed in the middle holds a small table and maybe standing or sitting\kneeling.

Accessories placed between the ladies are stands with round table-tops with seasonal sweets over them. 

Third position

The third tier holds five male musicians gonin bayashi . Each holds a musical instrument with the exception of the singer, who holds a fan:

  1. Drummer seated with small drum,
  2. Standing drum player with a Large drum,
  3. Standing player with a Hand drum,
  4. A seated player with a Flute, or Yokobue,
  5. Singer, holding a folding fan, standing.

There were ancient sets of seven or ten musicians, including at least one female musician

Fourth position

On the fourth tier, two ministers are displayed. They might be the emperor’s bodyguards or two of Kyoto’s ministers: the Minister of the Right and the Minister of the Left. Bows and arrows are sometimes carried by both. Ministers of the right are often represented as young, while Ministers of the left are typically shown as older with a long white beard to represent their seniority.

Between the two figures are covered bowl tables bearing diamond-shaped hishi mochi ( rice cake).

Fifth position

The fifth tier, between the plants, holds three helpers or protectors of the Emperor and Empress:

  1. Crying or whiny drinker nakijōgo
  2. Angry or quarrelsome drinker okorijōgo, and
  3. Laughing or merry drinker waraijōgo

For the sixth and seventh tiers, a variety of miniature furniture, tools, carriages, etc., are displayed.

Sixth platform

These are items used within the palatial residence.

  • The Tansu is a chest with (usually five) drawers with a swinging outer lid.
  • Nagamochi : long chest for storing kimonos.
  • Hasamibako: a smaller box for storing clothing placed on top of nagamochi.
  • kyōdai: a chest of drawers with a mirror in the middle.
  • Hari Bako : sewing kit bag.
  • two hibachi: braziers.
  • daisu : set of utensils for the tea ceremony.

Seventh, the bottom platform

These are items used outside the imperial residence.

  • Jubako is a series of lacquered food boxes with either a cord tied vertically around them or a handle that locks them together.
  • gokago , a palanquin.
  • gosho guruma , an ox-drawn carriage favoured by Heian nobility.


Special food for Hinamatsuri

As with most Japanese festivals, Hina Matsuri also features some special dishes.

The traditional colours for this festival are whitegreen and pink (or red). White is for purification, green stands for health and pink (red) will chase away evil spirits moreover, these colour also welcomes the spring season.

  1. Hishimochi (tri-coloured rice cake)

Hishimochi are symbolic japanese sweets associated with hinamatsuri. The form of these diamond-shaped rice cakes originated in edo period which represents fertility, and they are dyed in the colours of Hina Matsuri: pink, white, and green, to symbolize sakura blossoms, snow and new growth, respectively. It is possible to substitute red(pink) with another color, depending on the region with yellow, or the sweet may have 5 or 7 layers instead.The mochi is usually displayed with the Hina dolls.

2. Shirozake (white fermented rice wine)

Shirozake hinamatsuri
This sweet, pulpy liquor is made from the traditional process dated back to Edo period. Basically, Shirozake is a sweet white sake-like drink made from rice, koji, and shochu. The rice in shirozake is steamed and then mashed with koji and shochu, then allowed to age for a month, a sake set consists of flask and cup is used to serve sake.

Shirozake is a symbol of health and purity for young girls. Parents and grandparents toast to the health of their young daughters.

3. Hina Arare (coloured rice crackers)

Hina Arare
These puffed rice crackers are made up of glutinous rice and are coloured in springtime hues of pink, green, yellow, and white, and are a common snack during Hina Matsuri. During Hina Matsuri, the pink-colored cracker symbolizes life energy, the green cracker represents nature energy, and the white cracker symbolizes earth energy.


4. Ushio Jiru (clam soup)

Ushiojiru hinamatsuri
This clear soup or ushio jiru is made from hamaguri clams or white fish which are in season during this time of year. The clamshells symbolise a unique joined pair—a wish for a happy union in marriage. It is seasoned with salt and sake , it mostly goes with chirashi sushi.


5. Chirashi-sushi (scattered sushi)

Hina Matsuri sushi rice has a sweet and vinegary taste and is topped with omelette strips, crab meat, and raw fish. A large wooden platter or an Asian-style rice bowl is used to serve this dish. It is colourful and pretty and set perfectly on the theme of this spring festival. Besides being healthy, it’s also extremely luxurious and addictive in addition to being full of vitamins, minerals, and protein.

Chirashi Sushi is served differently in each region of Japan, with varying ingredients and toppings.

Chirashi Sushi, for instance, is called Barazushi or Gomoku Sushi in Osaka. It is topped with unagi and vegetables, cooked or uncooked.

The Edomae-Style Chirashi Sushi served in the Tokyo area features assorted sashimi and colourful garnishes served in a bowl or a lacquered box.

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