Every March 3rd, the third day of the third month, is the day families all over Japan make a celebration for their daughter(s) so she may grow up healthy, happy, and beautiful. This special day is known as Japanese Girls' Day (Hina Matsuri). To make it even more special, it is also called the Japanese Doll Festival. Hina Matsuri became legally approved by the Japanese government in 1687.
The parents or grandparents of a newborn baby girl should present her with a set of intricately beautiful hina dolls at her first Hina Matsuri. These dolls are proudly passed down from generation to generation.
A few days prior to Hina Matsuri, mothers and daughters take these traditional dolls with all their accouterment (miniature furniture, etc.) and set up a display that may have as many as seven tiers. The tiers are covered with a red cloth or carpet.
Each tier has its own specified hina hierarchy.
The first tier (or top row) is reserved for two dolls, the Emperor and Empress. The Emperor carries the tool ladle to straighten dignity and the Empress wears many layers of colorful kimonos and holds a fan. A gold folding screen is, as a rule, placed in back of the royal couple.
The second tier makes space for three ladies of the court, serving sake to the Emperor and Empress, as well as Japanese rice cakes.
Five male musicians are placed on the third tier. Sometimes, the dolls are presented as four instrumentalists, holding traditional Japanese musical instruments such as a whistle, small drum, large drum, etc., plus one singer.
The fourth tier holds two ministers. The Right Minister is made up to look like a young person while the Left Minister is a much older man. Each minister has arrows on his back while holding a bow and also wears a sword at the waist.
The fifth tier contains three helpers whose job it is to keep the palace spotlessly clean. They have in their hands cleaning tools such as brooms, dustpans, and rakes.
The last one or two tiers give space to display miniature furniture such as dressing tables, workboxes, or a chest of drawers. There might be toy trees so fanciful they can be bedecked with semiprecious stones.
Japanese girls wear kimonos for Hina Matsuri. They often invite other girls to a home party to share in the celebration. Party food might consist of sushi, clam soup, sweet pink rice cakes, and colorful rice crackers. Pink stands for the peach flower (Hina Matsuri is sometimes called Momo-no-Sekku or festival of the flowers of the peach tree). White stands for cleanliness (snow) and green represents health (new growth in the earth). The girls also drink ama-zake, a rice wine with no alcoholic content.
It is a firmly believed superstition in Japan that the hina doll display must be put away as soon as possible after March 3rd or else the girl might have to wait to get married. Some believe there will be no marriage at all.
Centuries ago, people in Japan were of the solid opinion that the dolls had the power to contain evil. They would set straw hina dolls in a boat and send them off to sea, in the hope that trouble or evil would float away with them. Now, there is a show of ecological awareness; the hina are created with environmentally-friendly fish food. Also, there is a movement to prevent river pollution.
Serving Japanese cuisine? See Niftykitchen.com Sushi Accessories. Terry Kaufman is also Chief Editorial Writer for Niftygarden.com and Niftyhomebar.com.
©2008 Terry Kaufman.