Hinamatsuri: The pinkest day of the year

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March 2, 2014

In Japan, there is a special day for everyone; for elders, workers, boys, and last but not least, for GIRLS. If you are living in Japan around this season, you might be overwhelmed by the limitless shades of pink, displayed in shopping malls, Konbini and even on chocolate packages.

This sudden pink rush is due to Japan’s traditional celebration of girls called, Hinamatsuri.

What is Hinamatsuri?

Hinamatsuri (Doll festival), held on March 3rd, is a special day to pray for the growth and happiness of young girls. So why pink? Well, Hinamatsuri is also called “Momo no sekku” (Peach Festival), as March on lunar calendar is the peach blossom season (might be the reason why the only female character from Mario was named “Princess Peach”). This tradition, originated in China, initially carried out by the aristocrats during Heian era but eventually spread amongst all the classes and became an annual festival of Japan.

Hinamatsuri Customs

A few days before Hinamatsuri, families with girls will set up the Hinadan (雛壇ひなだん), a five to seven-tiered stand covered with a red carpet, and on it place Hina-Ningyo (雛人形ひなにんぎょう), special dolls for the Hinamatsuri.

The dolls are believed to function as effigies, which take away the evil spirits. By displaying dolls once a year, the parents wish for their daughters’ long and healthy life. Once all the dolls are lined up in correct position, some peach blossoms must be dedicated on the stand.

doll_set

*The stand represents the old Japanese aristocratic class.

On the day of Hinamatsuri, families get together and enjoy delicious traditional dishes such as, Chirashi-zushi (Sushi-rice topped with raw fish and other lucky ingredients), clam soup, Hina-arare (colorful rice crackers), and Hishimochi (diamond-shaped multi-color rice cake) while drinking Shirozake (white-sake).

The Hinadan stand must remain up for few days after the ceremony as putting it off right away is considered as bad luck.

For those who want to purchase Hinaningyo, please keep it mind that the price varies depending on how rigid you want to get. You can buy it online or nearby malls but if you want to get real traditional one, I suggest you to visit doll-stores or Asakusabashi for Hinaningyo shopping.

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Host of the Speak Up Asia podcast.
  • The tradition here is usually to set up the Hinadan in mid-February, and it must come down straight after Hina Matsuri, or there will be bad luck. The superstition is that the girls in the family will get married late.

    • I checked with the author of the article and she said that:

      “Some believe that leaving the display too long is not good because it might mean a late marriage for their daughter. I didn’t mention this in the article because this superstition differs from region to region.”

      • It seems to be a common custom through-out Japan. That said, the dolls are believed to bring good luck, so hopefully that cancels out any bad luck due to leaving them out too long.

    • You are right, but I prefer not to call such folk beliefs ‘superstition’ because I do not want to seem disrespectful towards Japanese. Furthermore, this folk belief makes sense. Japanese believe that actions matter. After all, the essence of Shinto is one’s course of action. Shinto is a way. The same thing can be said about the ancient religion of the Chinese, of which my family and I are adherents. Chinese folk religion or sometimes called Chinese polytheism is a way. An old name of this religion is Shendao in Chinese. Shen means God(s). Dao means way. Our actions in life define us.

      Shendao – or Shenism as some refer to it (because we worship the Shen, divine beings) – has been brutally oppressed for a long time and many adherents have therefore been practising it in secret. It is no easy task to observe the ancient rites in a society that does not value but detest authentic Chinese traditions. Communists have become somewhat more tolerant towards Chinese polytheism, but still they view the more authentic or traditional forms of it as merely feudal superstition. They want to have only Communist-approved versions of Chinese polytheism. Whilst Shinto was not brutally oppressed for a long time, Shinto nevertheless had a difficult time. Despite all the difficulties Shinto faced, it survived.

      Shinto was even restored to ancient glory by the Meiji Restoration, which I think should inspire any Chinese nationalist for a similar event in China. The Japanese managed to revive their old religion, the Chinese should do the same in my humble opinion. To return to my point, the ethnic religion of the Japanese is about a certain course of action. The belief that girls in the family will get married late if the dolls are not put away in time makes perfect sense when one considers that Japanese essentially feel actions influence the destiny of the world. So actions matter really a great deal. If the rite is not properly performed, i.e. if people do the wrong things like leaving out the dolls too long after the event, it will bring bad luck.

      I do not think of this as superstition, but as proof of the importance of action in Japanese culture. Japanese and traditional Chinese value action more than mere beliefs. Christians talk about beliefs all the time, but we prefer to take action and to do so in the right – i.e. the divine – way. That is also why it matters how the dolls are positioned. Arrangement also matters a lot in Chinese polytheism. We are not vain people for paying atttention to visual things. In fact, we are in harmony with the world we observe because we think this world matters. For instance, Japanese believe the Kami can be found here in this world. The Kami are forces that are one with the world. So this world is divine to the Japanese. They focus on the here and now.

      • Jinhan Davis

        I enjoyed reading the content you’ve shared. I now actually see how the beliefs can actually be true in our world, in general. All of our frequently repeated behaviors and thoughts add up and greatly influence our life’s reality. Therefore, if someone is regularly late in completing their tasks they will not likely become successful in their life dreams and goals.
        Yet, if someone is usually on time and has a regularly successful work ethic and good relationships but still feels fear and worry after forgetting to take down their hina-matsuri display, I would definitely call that case a superstition.

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