Hinamatsuri: Japanese culture celebrates girls during centuries-old doll festival

THURSDAY, MARCH 3: The first scents of cherry blossom are in the air as Japanese families gather to celebrate the centuries-old festival of Hinamatsuri, the Japanese Doll Festival (or Girls’ Day). Based loosely on the ancient Japanese custom of floating dolls down a river in a tiny boat, in hopes that the dolls will take bad spirits away with them, Hinamatsuri is now an opportunity to display prized dolls. A set of seven platforms, set up days and weeks before Hinamatsuri, display dolls in a very specific manner. Dolls represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians of the Heian period, and are equipped with tools, golden screens, mandarin orange and cherry blossom trees, furniture and sake equipment. There is still some lore involved with the dolls, though: it’s said that leaving out the platforms after Hinamatsuri is over will bring bad luck.


In Japan today, community members pray for the health and well being of young girls. Sugar- or soy-flavored crackers and sake are common fare, as is chirashizushi (rice topped with raw fish). This year, limited-edition Hello Kitty sweets—in flavors peach and matcha—will be available across Japan. Outside of Japan, Hinamatsuri is widely celebrated in Hawai’i, in Florence, Italy and in Japanese communities worldwide. In Hawai’i this year, the Kona Coffee Living History Farm celebrates Girls’ Day with special events.

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