On March 3rd, Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) is celebrated in Japan. This is a day when families with little girls wish “health and happiness” for them. Hina refers to the kind of dolls traditionally put on display for the celebration. Matsuri means “festival” in Japanese. Putting them together, Hinamatsuri means something like, “Hina-doll Day”. However, Hinamatsuri is commonly referred to as “Girls’ Day” in English.
Hina-dolls (雛人形 hina-ningyou) are dressed in traditional court kimonos of the Heian period (794-1192). The dolls are displayed on tiered platforms covered with a red carpet.
Here’s what you find in each tier:
-First (top) Tier
The Emperor and Empress, called 内裏雛 dairibina, are placed in front of a gold folding screen (屏風 byoubu).
Three court ladies (三人官女 sannin-kanjo)
Five musicians (五人囃子 gonin-bayashi)
Two ministers: the Minister of the Right (右大臣 udaijin) and the Minister of the Left (左大臣 sadaijin)
Three samurais as the protectors (衛士 eji) of the Emperor and Empress
Small decorative items are also put on the platform: lamp stands, lanterns, vases of artificial peach branches, and diamond shaped rice cakes on little tables are some examples.
A complete set might get too big and pricey, and therefore usually a compact version is displayed in a small household. The smallest version will be to have just the top tier dolls: the Emperor and Empress.
There’s also some food to go with the celebration: 雛あられ hinaarare (bite-sized, sweet, pastel-colored rice crackers),菱餅 hishimochi (diamond-shaped, pastel-colored rice cake), ちらし寿司 chirashizusi (sushi rice topped with fish, vegetables, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms), and clear clam soup are usually served on Hinamatsuri.