February 25, 2020

Hinamatsuri, The Doll Festival in Japan

If you are visiting Japan around this time of the year, you would be overwhelmed by the limitless shades of pink displayed wherever you go.

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March 3rd in Japan is the date of the seasonal festival of Hinamatsuri, translatable to Doll Festival but also known as Girls' Day. Hina dolls are displayed in homes to pray to the gods for good health, wealth, and happiness of little girls.
These Hina dolls traditionally come in ornate tiered sets. Multi-tiered platforms covered with red felt fabric are used to display sets of male and female dolls representing the groom and bride, three waiting ladies, and five male musicians, surrounded by other attendants, carriages, lamp decorations and peach tree ornaments.

 
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Traditional seven-tiered Hina doll set


Many families keep antique Hina dolls as treasured heirlooms to be passed down through generations. It is also traditional when a baby girl is born, the grandparents buy Hina dolls as a gift.

 
hinaningyo oldHina dolls from Edo period (1800s)
 
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Traditional ornaments of Hina dolls
 


In my childhood I had a set of Hina dolls given to me by my grandparents. It was a “modern” version of the set with only two dolls and a handful of ornaments which you could display in a smaller space.


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A modern Hina doll set. Compact in size and looking nice in Western-style room. 

 Every year in late February, I was excited to watch my mother open the boxes one by one taking out the dolls and their shiny small accessories. Though I loved my Hina dolls displayed on my piano very much, secretly I was jealous of my friends who owned a traditional seven tier set with a lot of dolls and all kinds of miniature furniture and musical instruments.

The origin of this tradition goes back over 1,000 years to an ancient practice in which the bad luck is believed to transfer to a displayed doll and then removed by putting it away.

hinaningyo old 2Hina dolls from Meiji Period (1900s)

Parents take the decoration down immediately after Hinamatsuri because of this superstition about Hina dolls, it is said that if the dolls are left on display after March 3rd, the daughters will remain single for a longtime. My mother was quite concerned about that!

hinaningyo new 2The Hina doll trend became less realistic and more kawaii .

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