While daughters day may be considered a recent phenomenon in many western cultures, in Japan, it is a day that has been celebrated for thousands of years. Daughters Day in Japan is a time when families get together to cherish what is special about their girls, although in recent years the celebration has expanded to include boys as well.
When is Hinamatsuri Celebrated?
Thursday, March 03, 2022
This tradition will only expand with the arrival of Hinamatsuri 2020, which will continue the traditions of Daughters Day while recognizing the contributions of their sons.
Hinamatsuri (Girls Day or Japanese Doll’s Day)
Celebrated on March 3rd every year, Hinamatsuri is a celebration that is also called “Doll’s Day” or sometimes “Girl’s Day”. It is noted for having platforms covered in a red-carpet that is used to display ornamental dolls. The dolls usually represent the royal court, including the emperor, empress, their attendants, and musicians which are in standard court dress as seen during the Heian period.
The event itself focuses on the parents’ love for their daughters and wishes for them to be happy and in good health as they grow from children into adults. It should be noted that boys are celebrated on May 5th of each year.
The display usually consists of five to seven shelves or tiers which are covered in red carpet and hold the dolls.
- Top Tier: Emperor and empress
- 2nd Tier: Court Ladies
- 3rd Tier: Male Court Entertainers
- 4th Tier: Ministers and Table for Rice Cakes
- 5th Tier: Samurai
The two additional tiers will not have dolls, but usually items from the court.
Hina Matsuri is also celebrated in other countries such as US, UK and in other parts where Japanese folks reside. Besides this, some countries celebrate Daughter’s Day as a separate event on a different date. Daughter’s Day is observed in USA, United Kingdom, India, Canada and Australia, mostly on the 4th Sunday of September every year.
A Hinamatsuri also features traditional foods, along with other beautiful items that evoke the personality and nature of daughters and their important role in the family. It’s common to see multi-colored, diamond-shaped rice cakes called Hishimochi served on this day. There are other types of rice cakes commonly served as well, including Sakuramochi, Shirozake, and Hina arare.
Why is Hinamatsuri Celebrated?
The tradition seems to have come from China and dates back to at least the 8th century. The dolls were ceremonial in nature, intending to be put on display as representatives of the royal court. The display itself starts with the Emperor and Empress on the top tier, followed by ladies in waiting, ministers, and other members of the court on the following tiers.
The annual celebration is held to recognize the special place that daughters have in Japanese society, taking an ancient tradition and extending it to the modern era. In fact, in 1927, about 13,000 dolls were sent in from the United States for the Hinamatsuri as part of the celebration and act of friendship between the countries.
There is also superstition associated with the Hinamatsuri. It is believed that girls who do not put their dolls away shortly after the celebration will take longer to become married.
Food Served for Hinamatsuri
Most of the food served during the Hinamatsuri is rather simple, consisting of the following which are generally consumed during the celebration.
- Hina Arare: Rice Crackers
- Shirozake: Wine from Fermented White Rice
- Hishimochi: Tri-Colored Rice Cakes
- Chirashi-zushi: Scattered Sushi
- Ushiojiru: Clam Soup
Many of the foods are pink to reflect the feminine origin of the celebration. The snacks are served on the celebration day and may be shared with friends and family.
Facts About Hinamatsuri
The underlying reason for the Hinamatsuri is the wish for a joyful marriage for the daughter at some point in her life. This is why the superstition of a marriage delayed is part of the belief system embroiled in the celebration. Other facts about the Hinamantsuri consist of the following;
- The festival became a nationally recognized celebration in Japan in 1687.
- There are dolls created in the 18th century still in use today
- The tier structure is created a few days before the event using red cloth or hina
- By the 20th century, most households with daughters created their own displays
The dolls represent specific characters that are associated with Japanese royalty and the royal court. The characters are as follows;
- Top Tier: Emperor and Empress
- Second Tier: Three Court Ladies – Each holding sake
- Third Tier: Five Male Musicians
- Fourth Tier: Two Imperial Ministers – One Left and One Right
The remaining tiers will often have food or other trinkets which help to flesh out the display. For many, the hinamatsuri is a celebration that helps forge the bond between daughters and their parents. It is a time-honored celebration that represents the uniqueness of daughters and their importance in society.
Daughters Day or Hinamatsuri History in Japan
Stemming from Hinamatsuri, this event began many centuries ago when the Japanese people emulated a Chinese tradition. However, in China the tradition is to create ornamental dolls and then set them into the river where they float away with the sins of those who created the dolls. In Japan, this was reinterpreted as celebrating the dolls themselves and their daughters who loved them.
One of the most prominent places in Japan for the Hinamatsuri is the Awashima Shrine, located in Kada. The priest decorate the shrine with many hundreds of dolls made from ceramic. The children arrive with their parents to sing songs and to share in the moment. The dolls are then put into a boat and set out into the bay, although the boat itself is brought back to the shrine and the dolls are burned.
Displays of dolls around Japan are quite common on this day, with the planning stages starting in February to create the shelves and obtain the red carpet. It may take several days to build the shelves which remain standing until March 3rd. After the 3rd has passed, the displays are quickly taken down because of the superstition that the daughters will marry late in life if they remain standing.
Hinamatsuri promises to be another fun-filled event that celebrates Daughters Day in Japan and provide a great time for sharing memories, love, and affection through the celebration of dolls. For families, this is a time to reflect on the importance of daughters on this special day.
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