Japanese Girls’ Festival – Hina Matsuri [雛祭り]
Hina Matsuri [雛祭り], also known as Girls’ Festival or Doll Festival is held on March 3. Families with daughters celebrate it by setting up Hina Dolls and wishing their happiness and health growth.
Hina Matsuri is also called Momo no Sekku [peach festival / 桃の節句]. The first Hina Matsuri for a new baby girl is called Hatsu Sekku [first festival / 初節句] and a special occasion to be actively celebrated.
Read more about Sekku >
Hina Dolls [Hina Ningyo / 雛人形]
The custom of displaying dolls originated in Heian period (794-1185). People believed that the dolls could sacrifice themselves to contain evil spirits instead of the owners. Traditionally Hina dolls made by paper or straw were floated down a river, believing the dolls take away their bad luck.
Hina doll displays are seen in house or in public today. 5 or 7-tiered Hina doll sets are commonly displayed.
The doll sets range from inexpensive to extremely expensive. Some dolls are passed down from mother to daughter.
It is considered better to display the Hina Dolls in early February and put them away immediately after the festival (March 3). Superstition says that leaving the dolls out past March 4 will result in a late marriage for the daughters.
Hina dolls represent an imperial Wedding from the Heian Period.
The platform which the dolls are placed is called Hina Dan [雛壇] and always covered by a red carpet [Dan Kake / 段掛] with rainbow embroidery at the bottom. The dolls arrangements and placement differ by the region.
Placement of Hina Dolls
First Tier – the Emperor and the Empress
Kyoto style, the emperor sits on the right side. Edo style, the emperor sits on the left side as present Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko stand. (*Viewer’s perspective)
Second Tier – Three court ladies
The one in the center is married. During Heian period, noble married women shaved off their eyebrows.
Third Tier – Five boys court musicians
They hold Japanese instrument except the singer in the right.
Forth Tier – Two guards
An old and a young guard, both have bow and arrows.
Five Tier – Three servants
They all are commoners and three people work together as a group.
Sixth Tier – Court furnishings
A chest of drawers [Tansu / 箪笥], a long chest for storing Kimonos [Nagamochi/ 長持], two smaller storage boxes on the top of Nagamochi [Hasamibako /挟箱 ], an brocade bag for extra clothes storage [Uwazashi bukuro / 表刺袋], two braziers [Hibachi / 火鉢], a sewing kit box [Haribako / 針箱], a small chest with a mirror [Kyōdai / 鏡台] and a tea ceremony set [Cha dōgu / 茶道具]
Seventh Tier – Sacred palanquin furnishings
A palanquin [Okago / 御駕籠], an ox-drawn carriage [Gissha / 牛車] and tiered lacquered food boxes [Jubako / 重箱].