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Hinamatsuri is a festival which families with daughters celebrate March 3rd by displaying hina dolls to express the wish for their daughters’ good health and growth in happiness. It is called “Hinaasobi” as well. ( To play with dolls.) On the day people serve lucky foods, so means eat seasonable foods for health such as Chirashi sushi, sushi rice in a box or bowl with various ingredients, and clams. I get very excited to wait soon for Hinamatsuri even now because my favorite Chirashi sushi will be served. I don’t mean I only care for the delicious foods, but I really shall thank for the day knowing parents express their wish in dolls.


What is Hinamatsuri?

It is not clear when "Girl's Festival" was begun.
It's said to have been celebrated on March 3 by Japanese calendar (around April present)before. But after it was changed to the Gregorian calendar (solar calendar) in 1873 (Meiji 6).
There are still some area to continue by lunar calendar on March 3 and the other area celebrated on solar calendar April 3. Also because the festival is held in lunar times when a peach(momo) flower blooms, people call it "Momo no sekku". (seasonal festival)

Now, does everyone know how "hina doll" was born?
Hinadoll was born from the event of purifying oneself and children's play. In old times people removed the bad luck into paper and grass doll people made by stroking with it, and throw into a river and a sea. This event and "Hiinaasobi", girls of imperial court and the aristocrat's girls played with paper dalls in Heian era, got related in Muromachi era. As a result, a paper doll of a pair of men and women, which protect girls from evil , was born, and people started to display among the aristocrats. This is said to be a prototype of a hina doll. By the way, the meaning "hiina" is "something small and pretty" and became derived from the name of the doll.


How to display Hinadoll

There is also difference in how to display it by something classic and depends on area. For example when displaying the Hina (empress) and an Dairi (emperor) doll representing an Imperial prince and princess in the first step, in Kanto area these days people generally decorate Hina on the right and Dairi on the left side as well as a wedding placement. On the other hand there is the opposite way in Kansai.

There is a word as "emperor in south side" in Analects of Confucius. ( "Analects of Confucius", the book pupils recorded speech and behavior of Confucius and his leading disciple after Confucius's death). This means great person like an emperor sit facing to the south and serves sit to the north. And also the seat in the south can be face to the direction of the sunrise is called a honor seat (The east. On the left hand ) and the way of the sunset (The west. On the right hand) is said to be a furthest seat.

Therefore it was natural before to display "emperor doll (lord)" in an honor seat and " empress (princess)" in the right hand. It showed the meaning of "The left" is more excellent than "the right".
But as time goes the meaning of "right" became converted as "better than the left". The Emperor Showa's coronation held with an international courtesy was a big trigger, and the display was also changed opposite display.


What do you eat for Hinamatsuri?

There are very important meaning in Hinamatsuri meals. Hishi-mochi (diamond shaped rice cakes) with beautifully three colored. Red color express peach flowers, white shows snow, green shows fresh green. These three colors express the spring scene of "after snow defrosts, newly buds grow and peach flower starts blooming". To color these meals was used with natural plants, such as gardenia seeds for red which detoxify poison, chestnut seeds for white which lower blood pressure, mugwort for green which has a power to remove evil.
Also, everyone loves Hina-arare ,grilled bits of rice cake for the Girls' Festival, was eaten as a snack by aristocracy when they played outside with hina (doll). It has three colors as well, because it was made with crushed pieces of Hishi-mochi.


Additionally in the occasion of Hinamatsuri, clam is used a lot.
Do you know why?
One reason is the time of the festival is the season many shellfish grow raped. So it became a custom to be offered clam catch in the Tokyo Bay in the Edo era. The other reason is clam was used for a metaphor of female by its bivalve from the old days. Especially the bivalve of clam is tightly put together, never gets with others. With these reason clam became implied for a conjugal harmony of husband and wife, and people appreciate it for weddings.

In Edo era, there was a trousseau called "Kai-oke". (bucket used to keep clamshells) There is a story it was sent to a groom with a full of clamshells for one year (360 pieces= dates of lunar calendar). Of course tt might have been performed that way only between aristocracy like daimyo....

Anyway, people in old days prayed for a conjugal harmony of husband and wife with a wish with kaioke.

By the way, it's said that people in Kyoto eat "Tsukudani of corbicula" in a Girl's Festival. (* Tsukudani: selfish boiled in sweetened soy sauce). Biwa-ko Lake (the biggest lake with dimension and stored water in Japan which are in Shiga-ken next to Kyoto-fu) was next to Kyoto and "Seta corbicula" easily taken. So that people started to eat this shellfish because of geography relation.


People say Hina dolls should be put away no later than the mid of March at latest. When it is later than then, people say wedding chances of girls delayed, don't they? This means one opinion of a wish message from parents to their daughters what girls who can not tidy precisely can not be a good housewife, and the other sooner tidy Hina dolls, sooner daughter can marry. ( *the same connotation of tidy and marry in Japanese, says "katazukeru"/ tidy up daughter. )
Anyway, we recognize Hina matsuri is not only love a hina but parents' wishes for their daughter's happiness.

It may be a good opportunity to appreciate our parents, isn't it?

2nd March, 2015