Hina Matsuri: Japanese Girl’s Day

Hina Doll
Hina Doll

The Japanese Peach Blossom Festival is a special day for young women in Japan. Otherwise known as Hina Matsuri or Japanese Girl’s Day, this special tradition is held each year on March 3.

On this day, young girls decorate their homes with fresh peach blossoms. Fresh peach blossoms play a special function on this day. The peach is a symbol of long life, and the Japanese believe it carries the traits of composure, tranquility and gentility. Peach blossoms are also a symbol of a happy marriage, and young women place them in their homes for good luck and happiness when they get married. On Hina Matsuri day, time is taken to bestow wishes for good fortune and marriage in the future to young women in the family.

Then, these young women dress up in special clothing and honor the elaborately dressed dolls that have been set up on a special tiered display covered in red cloth. People eat special food such as colorful sushi, clam soup, and sweet rice cakes, and they pray for girls’ happiness, health and beauty.

Hina Dolls
Hina Dolls
Hina dolls have a incredibly important role on this day, hence the name of the day, Hina Matsuri. These dolls are believed to absorb ill fortune, and Japanese girls all over Japan set up their displays so they will have good luck in their marriages.
Traditionally,  a girl’s grandparents must buy her a display for her dolls. These displays have up to seven tiers and often include small furniture modeled after imperial courtrooms. A set of hina dolls wearing traditional Japanese kimono are honorably placed on this display.  The dolls are displayed in descending order.  The Empress and Emperor dolls are set on the top shelf, while the other shelves are used for three court women, five court musicians, two guardians with weapons, and three servants. Rice crackers and diamond shaped rice cakes are also placed on this display.

You might be surprised to learn that this special festival originated in China.  Hina dolls were thought to absorb bad luck and were then removed from the home to be abandoned near a river, where it would be carried away.

The ceremony was established in Japan sometime during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Although the festival is at the beginning of March, most families will bring out their doll displays in mid-February. However, it is generally put away right after the festival in order to dispel the belief that putting away the displays and dolls too slowly will result in trouble when marrying off their daughters.

This special ritual still exists today outside of traditional Japanese homes. It can still be viewed at several Shinto shrines around Japan. The best place to go is the Awashima Shrine of Wakayama. This shrine is especially important to women, who pray there for good luck in their marriages and in childbirth.

Hina Dolls at Tomisaki Shrine
Hina Dolls at Tomisaki Shrine

The Hina-nagashi Matsuri is also an important part of this festival. Today, several towns in Japan sell special paper dolls which are made to be set afloat. As in the past, the dolls are taken to a river and released into the water or floated away on a wooden structure. With their departure, they take away all the evil, sickness, and bad luck surrounding the young woman who released it.

This beautiful festival is just another classic example of how the Japanese continue to combine ancient custom and tradition with style, grace, and incredible creativity into their modern lifestyles.

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!


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