As we slowly start to move into spring, and warmer weather,more festivals start to happen to celebrate this awakening.
The beginning of March sees Girls Day (or Doll`s Day) on the 3rd of March. Known in Japanese as Hinamatsuri雛祭り, it is the celebration of daughters and is one of the five sekku節句 or seasonal festivals celebrated throughout the year.
These festivals are celebrated on the first day of the first month, the third day of the third month and so on and together, they are known as Gosekku五節句.
These celebrations were adopted from China and celebrated at the Japanese imperial court from the Nara period (奈良時代 Nara jidai AD 710 – 794). They were held up until the Meiji period (明治時代
Meiji jidai 1868 – 1912) and some of them are still celebrated today.
The Gosekku are:
Kochōhai 小朝拝: The first day of the first month. Also known as Jinjitsu (人日 Human Day), this festival is now celebrated on the 7th of January during the New Year period. It is also known as Nanakusa no
sekku七草の節句, the festival of the seven herbs.
Kyokusui 曲水: The third day of the third lunar month when palace courtiers floated rice wine down a stream in the palace garden and each guest would take a sip and then write a poem. Today, it is celebrated as the Hinamatsuri雛祭り festival.
Ayame no Hi 菖蒲の日: The fifth day of the fifth month, it is celebrated as the Japanese iris (菖蒲 Ayame) festival. Nowadays, it is known as Tango no sekku端午の節句.
Kikkoden 乞功奠: The seventh day of the seventh month, offerings were made during the Tanabata 七夕 or Star festival, which is the annual celebration of the crossing of the Weaver (Vega) and Cowherd (Altair) constellations.
Chōyō no en 重陽の宴 : The ninth day of the ninth month, a celebration was held that originally featured chrysanthemum(菊 or Kiku) wine, but later became associated with the autumn rice harvest. It is today known as the Kiku no sekku菊の節句.
Hinamatsuri was traditionally known as the Peach Festival(桃の節句 Momo no Sekku) as around this period, the peach blossoms began to appear.
However, with the move to the modern Gregorian calendar, this does not happen any more.
Hinamatsuri celebrates female children and families pray for their continued good health and happiness.
The high point of Hinamatsuri are the displays of dolls called Hina Ningyo雛人形 that families bring out every year. These displays depict a Heian period (平安時代 Heian jidai AD794-1185) wedding featuring the Emperor and Empress and their entourage – ladies of the court, musicians, other attendants etc. The wealthier the family, the more elaborate will be the display of dolls and other accoutrements.
The male doll is known as the obina(男雛) and female mebina(女雛).
All the dolls and accoutrements will be placed on red cloth that covers a multi-tiered doll stand called a hinadan雛壇. The entire set of dolls and accessories is called hinakazari雛飾り and these doll sets become
family heirlooms, handed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter and so on. A lot of the collections started small and was added to as the years went on.
Usually, at the top of the hinadan are placed the two dolls representing the emperor and empress. These imperial dolls are known as dairi-bina (内裏雛 だいりびな). The obina holds a ritual baton called a shaku笏 and the mebina holds a court hand fan called akomeogi衵扇. These two dolls are also known as Odairi-sama (御内裏様) and Ohina- sama (御雛様). Behind them is a gold folding screen known as a byōbu屏風. There are two lampstands called bonbori雪洞 on either side of the dairi-bina.
The second level holds the three court ladies known as san-nin kanjo 三人官女). They serve sake to the male and female dolls. Two of these ladies are standing and the third one is either sitting or kneeling.
On the third level, you will find the gonin bayashi(五人囃子). These are the five male musicians with each holding a musical instrument except the singer, who holds a fan.
The fourth level holds the two ministers(大臣 daijin). These were administrators in Kyoto and are known as the Minister of the Right(右大臣 Udaijin) and the Minister of the Left(左大臣 Sadaijin). The Minister of the Right is a younger person while the Minister of the Left is shown as older as this position was normally a more senior one. Both of these dolls are equipped with bows and arrows.
Just below the ministers on the fifth level are a mandarin orange tree called Ukon no tachibana(右近の橘), and a cherry blossom tree known as Sakon no sakura(左近の桜).
Between the trees are the three helpers(仕丁 shichō) or protectors (衛士 eji) of the Emperor and Empress.
On the sixth and seventh levels are a variety of miniature furniture, tools, carriages, etc., depending on how large the family`s hina display is.
Young Japanese girls celebrate Hinamatsuri by holding parties with their friends. They will eat hina-arare雛あられ, which are basically rice crispies in various colours. They will also eat chirashizushiちらし寿司, which is sushi on a bed of rice in a bowl, hishi mochi菱餅, which is a multi-coloured(pink, white and green) mochi rice cake shaped like a diamond, a clam soup called ushiojiru(潮汁 うしおじる) and ichigo daifukuいちご大福 which are strawberries and red bean paste wrapped in chewy, white mochi.
Hinamatsuri is a lovely, gentle festival that everyone can enjoy. Girls get to enjoy their special day while the rest of us can admire the wonderful hina displays, not just in homes, but all over Japan.