Thursday, March 03, 2011

Hina Matsuri- Girls' Festival

We recently received a unique gift from our Japanese friends. They had visited the Tokyo Disneyland resort recently and had brought a gift for our daughter. The instructions that we got with the gift surprised us. They told us that the dolls should be displayed only for about a month beginning after the Setsubun festival and should be removed from display on 4th March. This was our introduction to the Japanese festival of “Hina Matsuri”. This festival is also called “Doll’s festival” or “Girls Festival” and is celebrated on March 3 every year.

The main focus of this event is the display of dolls called “Hina Ningyo”. This festival is to pray for the healthy development and happiness of girls in the household. It is believed that by touching these Hina Dolls, the bad luck and illness will be transferred to these dolls and the girls will lead a healthy and happy life. The doll display usually begins in mid February and is kept till Hina Matsuri. It is believed that displaying the dolls after March 4th will delay the marriage of girls and as such the doll display is taken off before March 4th.  

The festival owes its origins to the Heian period when it was common practice among girls in the royal families to play with Cloth or Paper Hina dolls. It was believed that these dolls had powers to contain bad spirits. Towards 19th century the common public adopted the custom and thus began the tradition of displaying dolls.
The dolls are modeled after the lifestyle and fashion of the Imperial court and family as existed 1000 years ago. The display of dolls is usually on a shelf called “Hina Dan”. The traditional doll arrangement is on a seven tiered shelf. A red carpet is used to cover the shelf. The highest shelf has two dolls – one male and another female. The male doll is called “Obina” or “Odairi sama and is modeled after the Emperor while the female doll is called “Mebina” or “Ohina sama” who is modeled after the Empress. The Emperor doll holds a ritual baton while the Empress doll holds a fan. This is the aristocratic couple and they are seated in front of a golden folding paper screen called “byobu”. At times two lampstands or lanterns are placed on the side. Some arrangements have various accessories placed between them. One interesting thing to note is the seating of the female doll. In traditional arrangements the female is seated on right side of the male doll. This is because the Emperor was seated on the right side of the Emperor till the 20th century when the Empress began to sit on the left side of the Emperor. This change was incorporated even in the Hina doll placement. In modern displays the female doll is seated on the left side of the male doll. However in places like Kyoto the dolls are placed in the traditional positions.

Three female dolls are placed on the second shelf. These are called the “San nin Kanjo” and are modeled after the ladies in waiting. They serve the aristocratic couple. At times these dolls are shown holding sake equipment . Occasionally other pieces of furniture holding other food items are also displayed alongside these dolls.  

The third shelf has five male dolls called “Gonin Bayashi”. They are the court entertainers and are shown holding various musical instruments. One of these five is shown holding a fan and he is supposed to be the singer.

The fourth shelf has a set of two dolls who are Ministers- Minister of the Right and Minister of the Left. The Minister of the Right called “Udaijin” is usually shown as younger in age than the Minister of Left called “Sadaijin”. Sometimes tables with food items are shown between these two dolls.

The fifth shelf holds three helpers or samurai. They are protectors of the royal couple .

The sixth and seventh shelves usually hold various pieces of furniture and accessories, tools etc. The sixth shelf usually holds things in use while at the royal palace while the seventh shelf holds things which are used while away from the royal palace. Most often a calligraphy set is seen. This was generally placed in the hope that the daughters of the family will become well educated young ladies. Other things on display include sewing kits, mirror stand, chest of drawers, and tea ceremony utensils.  
Some Hina Ningyo displays are elaborate and extravagant. The cost of few such sets ranges between a few hundred thousand yen to millions of yen. Keeping the cost and space factor in mind, it is now a days common to see smaller versions on displays at homes. These days the most common display is a set of two dolls depicting the Emperor and Empress.

(The above video is a link which I viewed on Youtube and liked it. Since I felt it is informative, I am sharing it on this blog.)

And finally here is the cute “Mickey and Minnie” Hina ningyo set that we received as a gift from our Japanese family friends:

On the day of Hina Matsuri, our daughter came back home with a small package containing a greeting card and a special Hina Matsuri cake. 

At the kindergarten, they were taught the Hina matsuri song which goes like this...

Akari wa Tsukemashou Bonporini
Ohana wa Agemashou Momo no hana
Gonin Bayashi no Fue Taiko
Kyou Wa Tanoshii Hina Matsuri

Odairisama to Ohinasama
Futari Narande Sumashigao
Oyomeniirashita Neesamani 
Yokunitakanjono Shiroikao

Kinno Byoubuni Utsuruhino 
Kasakani Yusuru Haruno Kaze
Sukoshi Shirozake Mesaretaka
Akai Okaono Udaijin

Kimono wa Kikaete Obishimete
Kyou wa Watashi mo Haresugata
Haruno Yayoi no Konoyokihi 
Nani Yori Ureshii Hina Matsuri.

To all the little girls in Japan, here's wishing you all a "Ureshii Hinamatsuri". 

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