Friday, February 18, 2011

Hina Matsuri, Coming Soon to a Department Store, School, Day Care Center or a Home near you!

Our Travel Photo Thursday offering for 3 March 2011
One of the things I really enjoy about living in Japan is all the different cultural events and festivals that I have a chance to see and participate in that as a foreigner, most of us have very little knowledge of.

One of those cultural experiences in Japan occurs every year on the third of March. For girls all over the country, it is a very special day. It’s a celebration for just being a girl known to the local population as “Hina Matsuri” or the Festival of the Dolls.

Its origins have been traced back to ancient China but it really gained popularity in Japan during the Edo period, 1603–1867. In its original form, people would make dolls, commonly known as hina ningyo, out of paper and then float them down a stream as a way to get rid of bad luck. Later it was combined with other traditions and it evolved into what we see today.

Today, the festival consists of a display of dolls, either in the home or in a public display such as in a school. The dolls are set up at the end of February and remain on display through the 3rd of March. The display is taken down immediately on March the 4th. To keep the display up beyond that is believed to invite bad luck.

On that special day, girls will invite their closest friends to their home for a party. Special foods are prepared and enjoyed. If the day falls on a weekday, many times schools or day care centers will hold a separate party or celebration just for the girls and dolls are set up on a special tiered display.

Traditional displays consist of seven tiers but displays with lesser numbers of tiers are not uncommon. The upper top most level dolls that represent the Emperor and Empress. The next lower levels are filled with dolls that represent Ladies in Waiting, musicians, and Ministers of the Emperor. Lowest tiers are filled with miniatures of furniture, carriages, food, and musical instruments. The dolls are dressed in the traditional ancient Japanese style.

Usually, the parents or grandparents of a newborn baby girl will purchase a doll set or the set can be passed down from generation to generation. The new doll sets often become heirlooms and great care is taken to pack and unpack every individual piece of the set each year.

For families that cannot afford the larger and more expensive doll sets, smaller sets or even ornate origami (folded paper) doll figures are made and used in their place. Sometimes these modest hand made displays are just as beautiful and impressive as the more expensive versions.

Just prior to the festival, many of the popular local department stores will put out Hina-Matsuri displays of various sizes for sale. Some stores will cordon off very large areas for the displays. When these displays are up, it would probably be a very good idea for parents of young children to keep a closer eye on their youngsters while shopping. The reason being is that in Japanese business operations the principle is: if you break it, you bought it.

This Post featured in Travel Photo Thursday


  1. The thing about Japan, or even China, is the colourcaptured and portrayed in your photos. Brilliant reds, glittering golds in contrast, and you capture it so well Keith.

  2. Got a Google or Networked blog follow facility? Would love to follow your site.

  3. I so love Japanese dolls!!! I've been wishing to visit Japan hopefully this year and I'm so envious of you now because you live there...;) Thank you for sharing..;)

  4. Beautiful photos, and what an interesting festival!

    Thanks for posting to Travel Photo Thursday.

  5. Interesting article. I love origami Hina Matsuri dolls. :)

  6. For many girls in Japan March 3rd must be a great day - not so much fun for the tomboys. Do they have a similar festival for boys?
    I love your photos and the description of the festival.

  7. Beautiful shots! I posted Happy Hina Matsuri Day on my Facebook page to teach people around the world about the holiday.

  8. What an interesting festival and tradition. Your photos are so coloful and lovely. Very nice!

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