Home » Culture » Hina Matsuri Doll Festival

Hina Matsuri Doll Festival

Hina Matsuri is a big festival in Japan and falls on March 3rd. It literally means the Doll Festival, a day when the families with girls display a very special set of dolls, hina-ningyō, thus praying for their girl’s good health and happiness.

Hina Matsuri is a new tradition which only became popular in the Edo Period (1600-1867) whereby it became customary for maternal grandparents to present a set of dolls upon the birth of their first granddaughter. A full set requires a seven-tiered staircase-like deck on which to display the Emperor and Empress, ministers, attendants, musicians and the procession of dowry goods and is very costly (up to and over one million yen!)

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Lladro Hina Matsuri Porcelain Dolls @ Palace Hotel Tokyo

Here is a link to Llandro’s Hina Matsuri Dolls, which I saw on display in Palace Hotel Tokyo, with the starting price of A$3500 and I am rather keen to get the pair.

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The traditional sets of Hina Matsuri dolls are true works of art with 7 tiers (from Hotel Nikko Kansai, Osaka)

The Emperor (Odairi-sama) and the Empress (Ohime-sama) wearing Heian Period clothing are placed in front of a gold folding screen (byōbu) with two paper lanterns (bonbori) and two flower vases

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The Emperor is holding a shaku (a ritual baton)

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The Empress is holding a fan

Notice the diamond shaped rice cakes placed on the stand with Hina dolls? These are the Hishi-mochi. They are colored in pink (implying peach flowers), white (implying snow), and green (implying new growth).

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Ministers and dowries

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Court attendants, muscians and dowry

The probable origin of Hina Matsuri might be Nagashi-bina (floating paper dolls down a river). Originally, the paper dolls were made to represent each person and all the ill-fortunes that might visit that person in the coming year were wished onto the doll. Then the doll was sent away on the river, taking the bad luck with it.

A taboo to remember is to take the pair of Hina Dolls down after March 3rd – however, if the family is too busy to dismantle the set, the dolls must be turned around, otherwise, misfortune might fall on the daugher and she would not be able to find a good husband!

And for the more academically inclined, here is an interesting critical analysis on Hina Matsuri and the Japanese Female, which inquired on the females as ‘controlled victims of Japanese patriarchy‘ from its sombre and not-so-happy significance.

Today, March 8th is also the International Women’s Day which I found out from the morning show talking heads. Seriously, why do they equate women’s power through style and dressing? Don’t they know that the stars before and after are so totally different? Most stars are from the ghettos anyway. The world’s most powerful woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australia’s richest woman, mining magnate Gina Rinehart are powerful, but they are not stylish!

Anyway, before I tangent off, here is a link to the virtual Girl Museum online – ‘Celebrating Girlhood Worldwide’!

9 thoughts on “Hina Matsuri Doll Festival

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  2. Pingback: The Most Affordable Michelin Meal In Japan So Far… It’s 3 Stars! @ Wa Yamamura, Nara, Japan | Out For a Long Lunch

  3. I’ve read about this festival a lot in comic books but this is the first time I looked at a real photo of the dolls instead of drawings.
    Wow, the doll set does look expensive!😀

    • They sure are. The maternal grandparents present these dolls to their first grand daughter and each year, they will be brought out and displayed (for generations).
      I saw the dolls at the department stores in Tokyo, and it seems that the workmanship for these dolls are not as good as the older generations.

      • Does it have something to do with the materials used. (Isn’t that the first thing most people think of when finding out that something is not as good as it used to be in the past?)
        I wonder how the Japanese folks made these dolls in the past, without any modern tools or easily molded plastic. (And the dolls got so many detailed, small sized elements!)

      • I would think so. The clay for the ceramic may be contaminated by the natural elements and I believe there is lack of apprentices who are interested in picking up these skills.
        The ‘ancient’s were amazing weren’t they? Whenever I go to museums, I can’t help but admire their intricate but very elaborate handiwork!

      • I think it is not just the material and the skills. It is also affected by the devotion of the artist.
        Modern people seems to think of dolls, statues and other forms of art as mere decoration or something with economical value.
        I was not surprised at all when my friend told me that there was no Buddhist among the workers who redid the famous temple in our hometown…

  4. Why March 3rd? Do you know the reason behind it? There’s a small Hina Matsuri set at my grandparents’ place. Probably only the dolls of the emperor and the empress. I remember waking up every morning in terror by the dolls. They gave me the creeps.
    My grandparents never dismantle the doll set. My cousin and I both got married. I guess the superstitious taboo was shattered in my family. haha

    I agree. I watched a movie that argued the modern day patriarchal-dominated society that has shaped the whole female sex objectification, most portrayed throughout the media. It also talked about the different gender expectations. Few girls aspire to careers in politics and upper government positions. Most female role models they’ve seen are in fashion and entertainment industries. It’s really depressing. Angela Merkel is my hero.

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