Thursday, February 19, 2009


Sorry to the boys, but in Japan, there is a day where people feast just for the girls! Called Hina Matsuri, it is held on March 3rd every year. It is also known as Momo no Sekku (the seasonal festival of peaches) and has been celebrated for centuries.

It was during the early Edo period (1603-1867) that the Hina Matsuri custom began. The emperor at the time played with a Hina doll (a girl doll) to entertain his daughter. Later, a general named Tokugawa Iemitsu gave his daughter a Hina doll as a birthday present. Since then, the custom of giving a Hina doll to every girl born was started. Now the custom of giving girls a Hina doll no longer survives. However, Hina Matsuri is still a special day for all girls in Japan.

On Hina Matsuri, many families in Japan celebrate the day by eating Chirashi-zushi. Chirashi-zushi is vinegared rice topped with tasty foods such as eggs, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, burdocks, and shrimp. Another way of celebrating, and the most popular one, is to set up a Hina ningyo (Hina doll). It usually has seven stairs and its beauty is outstanding. Here is how you set up each step.

(Top to Bottom)
1st step: Hina-sama and Odairi-sama. Odairi-sama is Hina's husband. He is usually placed on the left, and the Hina sits on the right. A paper lantern called a Bonbori is placed on each end and a peach tree is placed between the two dolls.

2nd step: Sannin Kanjo (The three court ladies). The two court ladies on the outside are standing and holding a sake bottle. The one in the center is sitting with a Shimadai (drinking cup).

3rd step: Goninbayashi (The five court musicians). Five men sit evenly spaced, each holding an instrument in their hands.

4th step: Two Ministers, rice cakes and a tray. Two Ministers are placed on each end and the rice cakes and the trays are placed between them.

5th step: Three servants and two trees. A mandarin orange tree and a cherry blossom tree are placed on each end. The three servants in the middle each have different expressions. One is crying, the other is laughing, and the last one sits with an angry face.

6th Step: Tools. Tools such as a wardrobe, an incense container, and a book holder.

7th step: Ox wagon, multitired box and a carriage. Each is placed evenly on the lowest step.

Usually, the Hina ningyo is made of seven steps. However, because some houses are not big enough to place this, some Hina ningyos are made of fewer steps. Although Hina ningyo are somewhat expensive, some are handmade and cost over JPY100,000, its beauty is always a pleasure to enjoy. Why don't you look for a Hina ningyo of your own and wait for the spring to come?

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