At the beginning of every March there is the spectacular Girls Festival here in Japan.
As you can see, the ancient cultural of Japan is alive and well in modern Japan today.
The primary aspect of the Girl’s Festival is the display of seated male and female dolls. These two main dolls are know as “obina” and meibina, respectively, and you can look upon these dolls as a representation of the Emperor and Empress.
The dolls on display are modelled after Imperial Court attire based on the royal courts of the Heian era (CE 794 to 1185)
Many of these elaborate displays include a multi-tiered doll stand representing ladies of the court, musicians, and other attendants.
The entire set of dolls and accessories is called the “hinakazari”.
The dolls are usually fairly expensive (¥200,000 to ¥500,000 for a five-tier set, depending on quality) and may be handed down from older generations as heirlooms.
In some areas of Japan, like Ibaraki prefecture, these dolls represent bragging rights and these doll sets can go up to ¥10 million and beyond.
The dolls spends most of the year in storage, and girls and their mothers begin setting up the display a few days before March 3 .
Now, the boys normally do not participate in this event, as May 5, now known as Children’s Day was historically called “Boys’ Day”. The boys get their own special item known as koinobori and Kabuto (Japanese helmet) on their day and I will be writing about this just before this festive celebration.
The dolls were supposed to be put away by the day after Hinamatsuri, with the the superstition being that leaving the dolls out any longer would result in a late marriage for the daughter.
Historically, the dolls were used as toys, but in modern times they are intended for display only.
During Hinamatsuri and the preceding days, girls hold parties with their friends.
Typical foods include hina-arare (multi-colored rice crackers), chirashizushi (raw fish and vegetables on rice in a bowl or bento box), hishi mochi (multicolored rice cakes),(sakuramochi) (pounded rice that tastes like cherries) and ushiojiru (clam soup, as clam shells represent a joined pair), and amazake (non alcohol sake).
To add further to the fun and joyfulness of this important festival, there is the Nagashi-bina (doll floating”) ceremonies which are held around the country.
The participants make dolls out of paper or straw and send them on a boat down a river, carrying one’s impurities and sin with them. Now this sounds like a little bit of Shintoism in the mix and this is not surprising as most of these auspicious occasion are related in somehow to Way of Japanese.
If you are in Land Of The Rising Son around the end of February until the March 3, you can find many places with these precious and unique works of art on display throughout our country.