Hinamatsuri is a festival annually celebrated all over Japan. This is also known as the Girl’s Day or the Doll’s Day. It is observed on the 3rd of March every year.
The main attraction of this festival is the red carpeted platforms on which small ornamental figures or dolls depicting the Empress, the Emperor, musicians, attendants and all the other members present in the court wearing the traditional dress that was worn during the Heian Era are kept.
Customs and Origin
The origin of Hinamtsuri traces back to the custom which was observed in the Heian Era. The name of the custom was called Hina-nagashi in which dolls made out of straw were sent down the river in a boat which finally entered the sea.
It was believed that those dolls took the evil spirits away along with them. Nagashi-bina is celebrated by Shimogamo Shrine in which these dolls are floated between the Kamo and Takano River as it was believed to keep the children safe. This custom is no more carried out because of these dolls getting entangled in fishermen’s nets. Now they are directly set afloat in the sea and people gather to watch this. As soon as the spectators go away these boats are brought back to the temple and set on fire.
Shirozake, a traditional drink made from fermented rice is prepared especially for this festival. Hishimochi, diamond shaped rice cakes, and Hina-arare, colored crackers flavored with soy sauce and sugar are served on this day. A special type of sushi called Chirashizushi is eaten on this day. Ushiojiru, a soup made with clams in shells, are also served. Clam shells used for preparing food are used to signify a couple sharing a strong bond as no pair other than the original pair of clam shells can fit so perfectly.
Placement of the Dolls
In the regions of Kansai and Kanto the order of placements of the dolls on the platforms are different. The dolls are placed in a different order from left to right in both the regions however the placements of the dolls on each level of the platform remains unchanged. The platforms are called Hina Dan in Japanese and the red carpet is called Dankake. These carpets are decorated with colorful rainbow stripes at the bottom. The topmost tier of the platform holds the two imperial dolls. These dolls include the Emperor, who is seen holding a baton and the Empress, who is seen holding a beautiful fan. On the second tier are the three ladies of the court and each of them is seen to be holding an equipment used to make sake. On the next tier sits the five musicians also called Gonin Bayashi. Each of them holds musical instrument apart from the singer who just holds onto a fan. The fourth tier holds the two ministers or the Daijins. The Minister of the right is depicted by a young man and the Minister of the left is depicted by an older man. On the fifth platforms are the three samurais who protect the royal Emperor and the Empress.
The platforms are decorated with the dolls in the beginning of February and the families displaying them take it down as soon as the festival ends. It is believed that if the dolls are left there even after the 4th of March, the marriages of their daughters will get delayed.