March 3rd is the day of Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival, also called Girls’ Day) in Japan. On this day dolls of the Emperor, the Empress, and nobles of the Heian court are displayed inside the home, and the day is celebrated in hopes that the girl of the house grows up healthily.
On the Sunday before March 3rd, I went to Tokugawa garden near my host family’s house to participate in Nagashibina (literally “doll-floating”). Nagashibina is an old tradition where dolls made of paper are put into straw boats and cast out to rivers, so as to bring misfortune away. I got to write one wish on a small piece of paper, tuck it inside the Empress paper doll, and draw faces for the Emperor and Empress paper dolls. Afterwards I glued the dolls to the “boat” made of a section of bamboo provided, and casted my creation to the “river” in the garden. It was very fun watching so many little boats floating away. The children beside me were shouting “Ganbare!” (“Do your best!”) to the dolls in their boats!
My tea ceremony class was on the day of Hinamatsuri (March 3rd) itself, and so there were Hinamatsuri-related decorations in the Japanese room were we had tea. The tea bowl I had that day was decorated with the Emperor and Empress dolls, and we had senbei (rice crackers) specially served for Hinamatsuri after. Our tea ceremony teacher also explained the meanings of the objects used for Hinamatsuri to us. For example, clam shells painted with pictures are usually used as decorations – they represent the wish for the girl to find someone suitable for her in marriage, just as how only the two parts of the shell from the same clam can fit together. I also learned that if the dolls are not cleared up soon after March 3rd, the girl of the household will have less chance in marriage, since the fact that the dolls are still on display indicates negligence and bad character!
My host mother also bought me a lot of sweets typically served on Hinamatsuri. The one I liked best was sakura mochi – a pink sticky rice cake filled with adzuki bean paste. The sweetness is complemented by the slightly sour and salty sakura leaf wrapped outside of the mochi. I also liked yomogi mochi, which consisted of an outside made of sticky rice and yomogi (mugwort) leaf and adzuki bean paste inside.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Anh hailed from Hanoi, Vietnam and is currently a sophomore at Haverford College, Pennsylvania. She plans to major in Computer Science, but decided to take a non-CompSci semester abroad before coming back to it in her junior year (after all, when else will she get the chance?). In her free time she enjoys reading, exploring new places and new types of food, people-watching, as well as reading food blogs, planning to make every single dish that catches her eye, and then completely forgetting about them. She is as excited to blog about her journey as she is about her Spring semester in Nagoya!</span></div>