Hinamatsuri: A March Celebration

Naomi Wolfe
April 4, 2017
Host grandmother, host cousin, host sister and host mother!

Hinamatsuri, also known as Girl’s Day or Doll’s Day, is a special festival in Japan celebrating the health and happiness of girls. Roughly a month before March 3rd, the actual day Hinamatsuri is celebrated, families with young daughters set up an elaborate doll display inside the house. These dolls are modeled after the imperial court during the Heian period (794-1185) and are organized in shelves according to their position in the court, with the emperor and the empress at the very top. The hinadan, the platform the dolls are organized on, is covered by a red carpet with rainbow stripes on the bottom.A variety of decorations like miniature furniture and flowers sit between the dolls, and great care is taken when setting up and putting away the doll display since many pieces are very fragile. These sets can be very expensive, so families frequently pass dolls down to the next generation.

Since my host family has a young daughter, they put up a 3-shelf doll display that had been passed down for several generations. There were five large dolls in total, including the emperor, empress and three court ladies, with the bottom shelf dedicated to a small procession of carts carrying the belongings of the empress. They also put a large, folded screen door behind the hinadan, and beautiful lamps on either side of the display. At the very front of the hinadan, a bowl full of hinamatsuri-themed snacks and candy was nestled between a pink kimono and a colorful banner with “Yuka” emblazoned on it, my host sister and the proud owner of the display. The best feature, however, was a framed photo of Yuka as a baby with her older brother Yuto that played the music box rendition of Ureshii Hinamatsuri, the traditional song for hinamatsuri.

The display was set up on the second week of February, taking up most of the living room until it was taken down a few days after Hinamatsuri. Once March 3rd had passed, all of the dolls were turned around in accordance with a superstition that otherwise, their owner would be cursed with bad luck in marriage. I overheard an unmarried, 40 year old Japanese woman jokingly explain to her American friends that because her parents never turned her hinamatsuri dolls around, she had never been able to find a husband.

Hinamatsuri is a very popular celebration, with private residences, companies, museums, and even schools displaying their elaborate Doll displays to the public. Stores all over Japan also sell Hinamatsuri decorations and gifts, with candy being the most popular product. These sweets are left in front of the doll display until March 3, and then they are eaten by the owner of the display- with some help from her family, of course!

I was surprised that March 3rd had such little fanfare, and no actual celebrations or activity outside of the household, despite how widely marketed and advertised Hinamatsuri was throughout February. Even so, it was a beautiful display and a very interesting cultural experience, and I look forward to seeing how Boy’s Day, coming up on May 5th, will be celebrated.

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Naomi Wolfe

<p>My name is Naomi Wolfe and I am a Japanese major and Sociology minor studying in Japan for the 2016-2017 academic year in the hopes of understanding Japanese culture, people, and society. I studied in the Tokyo Language &amp; Culture Program for the fall semester and cannot wait to see what else I can learn in the Nagoya Direct Enrollment Program in the spring semester!</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
Austin College
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