This Friday 3rd March will be Hinamatsuri!
Held on the 3rd day of the 3rd month, Hinamatsuri (often known as Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day) is one of Japan’s five seasonal festivals held on auspicious days of the year.
Hinamatsuri was originally known as Momo no Sekku or the peach festival, as it took place at the beginning of spring when the peach trees began to blossom. In the Heian period (around 1000 years ago) families would make paper or straw dolls and place them in the river to be swept away. It was believed that bad fortune would be carried away with these dolls.
The hinamatsuri as we know it today is thought to have started in the Edo period (1603-1867) and is now a celebration of female children and femininity. To celebrate hinamatsuri families typically display a set of dolls dressed in Heian period Imperial Court clothes. The most prominent of these dolls are the Emperor and Empress (although they represent the position rather than the actual people). They are seated on cushions and often have a gold folding screen behind them. Whilst some families may only have these two dolls, a full set of hina-ningyō (the name given to these special dolls) consists of 15 figures -the Emperor and Empress, three court ladies (serving sake), four musician and a singer, two ministers, and three attendants. As well as these dolls there will also be miniature items and tools such as carriages, trees, furniture, and musical instruments. A full set of hina-ningyō can cost around £2,000 – although they are often passed down as family heirlooms.
As well as displaying dolls, in the lead up to Hinamatsuri girls will have parties with their friends and eat chirashizushi, clam soup and drink amazake, a sweet (and non-alcoholic!) sake.
Chirashizushi (scattered sushi) consists of a bowl of rice, topped with prawns, lotus root, kinshi tamago (thinly sliced omelet) and other fish and vegetables. Eating chirashizushi is thought to bring good fortune, with each ingredient having its own symbolism. For example, the kinshi tamago (golden egg) brings prosperity, while prawns are thought to give you a long life. Clam soup (ushio-jiru) is thought to ensure girls a happy marriage, as the clam shells fit perfectly together. There are also some sweets that are associated with hinamatsuri – hina-arare (colourful rice crackers) and hishi-mochi (pink, white and green layered mochi, cut into diamonds).
Why not make some chirashizushi at home and celebrate hinamatsuri wherever you are!