Doll’s Festival

Writer: Karen W.

Editor: Souma Y.

Translator: Kurooto B.

Coming to Japan for the first time, maybe you’ve been busy getting used to the new life here and couldn’t enjoy “Hinamatsuri”? If you don’t know what it is? No problem! This article is for you!

1. Doll’s What is the “Hinamatsuri”?

Hinamatsuri is a Japanese custom that originated from a combination of two events. One is “Joushi-no-Sekku,” the ancient Chinese annual event, and the other is “Hiina-Asobi,” which used to be held in the aristocratic society of the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan. Joushi-no-Sekku was an event to remove your bad luck by entering the water. However, the custom changed a little bit when it was imported to Japan. Instead of entering the water, people put their impurities into “Hitogata” or “Katashiro” (dolls made of plants, trees, and paper) and threw them into the water. Today, an event called “Nagashi Hina” is often seen in rural areas, and it is said that “Hitogata” and “Katashiro” are the origin of the “Nagashi Hina.” This “Nagashi Hina” was connected with aristocratic women’s view on marriage in the Heian period (794-1185). Women in this period started playing with dolls to imagine their future married life and success in business, which are the origin of “Hinamatsuri.”

The large seven-tiered platform where the dolls are put represents the wedding ceremonies of the Heian-period aristocrats. Since weddings in the Heian period were held at night, the platform is decorated with lights to illuminate the darkness on the tier of the bride and groom dolls. These bride and groom dolls are called the “Uchiuri-hina.” It is often misunderstood that both the bride and groom dolls are called “Uchiuri-hina” but, in fact, the term is used only when the two dolls are put together. And, the seven-tiered platform is called “Hina-dan-dori” and each tier has a specific doll to be placed. The first tier consists of male and female dolls who play the leading roles in the wedding ceremony while the second tier has three courtesans who take care of the Uchiuri-hina. The third tier consists of five musicians who enliven the banquet, and the fourth tier consists of two attendants who guard the Uchiuri-hina, the right minister and left minister. The other tiers also have specific dolls to be placed.

 The way to display the dolls is different between the Kansai region (mainly Kyoto) and the Kanto region (mainly Kyoto). In the Kansai region, there was a concept in the aristocratic life of the Heian period (794-1185) that the left side of the dolls was higher in rank than the right side. Therefore, since men were considered to be higher in rank than women, the male emperor doll was positioned on the left side of the female queen doll, and this arrangement custom remains. In the Kanto area, the emperor doll stood on the right side and the queen on the left since the late Meiji period (1868-1912) when the  Western marriage style was imported.

2. What do you do in Hinamatsuri?

There are two major things to do for Ohinasama. The first is to decorate the platform and place dolls on it. As mentioned before, the platform, Hina-dan, consists of seven tiers. However, currently, the only first tier is decorated where the Uchiuri-Hina dolls are placed.

It is better to start decorating the Hina-dan in late February than the day before the Hina-matsuri because it takes time for decoration. One thing you have to be careful about is that you should not put away the decoration before or on the day of Hinamatsuri because it represents the divorce right after marriage. Moreover, you should not display them through March, or you would miss the chance of marriage. So, it is better to keep the platform with dolls for about two weeks after the day.

 Another thing to do on “Hinamatsuri” is to prepare special food for the event. There are seven typical foods: “Shirozake(white sake),” “Amazake(sweet sake),” “Hishimochi”(water chestnuts which are peach, white, and green from the top),” “Hinaarare (rice crackers, which is sweet in the Kanto region while it’s seasoned with soy sauce and salt in the Kansai region),” “Sakura Mochi(a peach-colored rice cake wrapped with cherry leaves),” “Chirashizushi (a rice bowl topped with mushroom, egg, lotus root, shrimp, and salmon roe),” “Temari Sushi (a bite-sized pieces of sushi rice topped with ingredients that you like),” and “Osuimono(a soup) with clams.” Clams are eaten in Hinamaturi because the two shells represent the soul mate for marriage. All of these dishes are easy to find in supermarkets and the menu is simple.

Temari zushi

Chirashi zushi

I hope you learned a general idea of what to do for Hinamatsuri through this article. Now let’s see how some TIU students spent their time on Hinamaturi.

A: “I decorated the platform and placed dolls. It was pretty easy because my set of the platform and dolls has only one tier! It is like a portable simplified set of Hinamatsuri!”

B: “I made and ate Chirashi sushi with mushroom, a boiled egg, vinegared lotus root, and shrimp!

C: “I had Sakura mochi. I bought it at a supermarket!”

D: “I had Hinaarare. It was delicious!”

 Finally, thank you for reading this article. We will post other interesting articles this month as well, so please stay tuned!

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