Hinamatsuri is one of many important festivals celebrated for children in Japan. Each year on the 3rd of March, people celebrate the health and good fortune of young girls. Although the direct translation is ‘Doll’s festival’ – its also commonly referred to as, Girl’s Day.
The festival first started during the Heian era (794-1192) – and initially it was called, Hina-nagashi (doll-floating). To celebrate, people set paper dolls afloat into the river. The belief is that that the dolls will take the evil and impurity away with them as they float along the river, and into the sea. Parents began to wish good health for their daughters as they cast the dolls, leading to the birth of Hinamatsuri. It symbolic importance was so high that it was one of the five annual ceremonies held at the imperial court.
As well as casting dolls into the river, Heian custom, also includes displaying ornamental dolls on a platform covered in red carpet. The dolls represent renowned occupations from the imperial court. Parents prepare these dolls for their first daughter, it’s then passed down to the following generations.
The placement of dolls on the platform always remain the same – as shown in the picture above. To represent their royal status, the emperor and empress always sit on the top. The second platform is held by three court ladies, followed by five male musicians on the third. Two ministers are seated on the fourth platform, and samurais hold the last platform to protect those above them. Traditional Japanese tools and furniture decorate the rest of the platforms.
It’s easy spotting these dolls during March. They’ve become so popular that there are even modern takes of Hina dolls, such as Disney or Nanoblock versions. If find yourself in Japan around this time – be sure to keep an eye out for them!