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An Introduction to the Traditional Japanese Celebration of Hinamatsuri, Including Special Events Around the Country

Hinamatsuri is a traditional celebration in Japan. This article introduces its history, how to celebrate it, and some events that tourists can participate in.

What is Hinamatsuri?

Hinamatsuri is a celebration observed on March 3 every year to pray for the healthy upbringing and happiness of girls. Families with girls often display dolls called hina-ningyo ("hina dolls") and enjoy a variety of traditional dishes. In ancient China, where the tradition originated, it was thought that evil spirits bringing misfortune were likely to appear at the change of the season, around March 3. There were the customs of cleansing the body by the water and of holding parties to ward off the spirits, practices that came to Japan and eventually evolved into the current-day Hinamatsuri. Hinamatsuri comes at a time when peach blossoms flower and is also known as "momo-no-sekku", meaning the seasonal festival of the peach.

About Hina Dolls

Hina dolls are displayed by parents who wish for their daughters to grow up to become healthy and kind women and live happy lives. There is a theory that the practice started about 1,200 years ago, so the dolls are dressed in the elaborate costumes of the time. On the top tier of a multi-tiered stand (called the "hinadan") are the Dairibina, a pair of dolls said to represent the Emperor and Empress, and below them are dolls representing ladies of the court and musicians. Today, there is a wide variety of hina-ningyo, such as ones with just the Dairibina and others with simple, poppy designs. They can also be made with the traditional Japanese art of origami.

Popular Hinamatsuri Food

Major celebratory dishes traditionally served for Hinamatsuri are "chirashizushi" and "hina arare". They are sold at supermarkets between late February and March 3, so be sure to try them.

Chirashizushi: An elaborate sushi with a variety of ingredients served on top of white rice. Toppings usually include eggs for their bright yellow color and seafood such as shrimp that represent a wish for longevity.

Hina arare: A sweet made by coating mochi with sugar. The pink and yellow colors represent the seasons. They are starchy—which was considered to be beneficial to health—and therefore represent the parents' wish for their daughter's health.

Go to Hinamatsuri Events Around the Country

Here are some Hinamatsuri events scheduled around the country.

[Tokyo] Hina Doll Exhibition

This is a hina doll exhibition held by a famous Japanese confectioner. It is free to the public, so anyone can enjoy lovely hina dolls including an elaborate 10-tiered set and approximately 800 tsurushi-bina (small hina dolls that are hung from the ceiling).

2020 schedule: Monday, January 13 - Tuesday, March 3
Venue: Minamoto Kitchoan Ginza Main Store

[Tokyo] Hina Doll Exhibition

Minamoto Kitchoan New Headquarter Bldg. 1F, 6-9-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

[Shizuoka] Hina no Tsurushi Kazari Festival

This is an event held in various locations around the famous onsen (hot spring) area of Izu Inatori Onsen, where there is the custom of "Hina no Tsurushi Kazari"—making handmade hina dolls with prayers of children and grandchildren's growth, and hanging them from the ceiling. During the festival, these gorgeous dolls can be seen at various locations. In addition to being hung from ceilings, the dolls are presented in a variety of different ways, such as along a long staircase leading up to a Shinto shrine.

2020 schedule: Monday, January 20 - Tuesday, March 31
Venue: Bunka Koen Hina no Yakata and other locations (admission fee differs by location)

[Shizuoka] Hina no Tsurushi Kazari Festival

Bunka Koen Hina no Yakata (and other places), 1729 Inatori, Higashi Izu-cho, Kamo-gun, Shizuoka

[Kyoto] Shimogamo Jinja "Nagashi Hina"

In this traditional ritual, hina dolls in straw baskets are sent down a river that flows through Shimogamo Jinja (official name: Kamomioya Jinja) with a prayer for the sound health of children. The ritual of men and women in traditional costumes sending the baskets down the river can be seen at no charge. There is also the option to participate in the ritual.

2020 schedule: Tuesday, March 3
Participation fee (includes hina arare): 1,000 JPY/adult, 500 JPY/child

[Kyoto] Shimogamo Jinja "Nagashi Hina"

59 Shimogamo Izumikawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

If this piqued your interest in Hinamatsuri, be sure to experience it by participating in these events!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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