Mar 6

Hinamatsuri—Part Deux

in Hinamatsuri (Girl's Day), Japan

It has been one of those weeks where it seems that hours disappear each time I blink. So here I am finally telling you what we did to celebrate Hinamatsuri!

As I explained before, Hinamatsuri is celebrated on March 3rd. Families with young daughters celebrate this event at home to ensure their daughter’s future happiness. Special dolls are displayed in the best room of the house and special foods are eaten.

Squirrel and I spent some time outside enjoying the sunshine and the plum blossoms that are finally starting to bloom (we have had an unusually long winter).

Then Squirrel and I went to a Hinamatsuri party, hosted by my friend Ms. C. She had a wonderful light dinner prepared of some traditional Hinamatsuri foods, chirashizushi and hamaguri ushio-jiru.

Chirashizushi, or scattered sushi, is a bowl of sushi rice with other ingredients mixed in, such as shrimp, cucumber, peas, and seaweed. A resource that I love, called Kids Web Japan, explains how you and your daughter can make it together! Squirrel loved chirashizushi.


Hamaguri ushio-jiru, is a clear soup with clams. Legend has it that each pair of the clam’s shell is a slightly different shape than any other, therefore, a single shell only fits perfectly with its original partner. Because of this, the clam is also often served at wedding feasts as a symbol of marital harmony and chastity.Now that you know what we did for Hinamatsuri and you have learned a little bit about the food, I thought it would be fun to share a little bit about some of the Hinamatsuri paraphernalia, as I find it very interesting!

“Hina-ningyo” (special dolls for Hinamatsuri which are replicas of an ancient emperor and empress and their royal court). These are not played with and are treasured, many of them handed down from generation to generation. Families display anywhere from 2 dolls (the Emperor and Empress) to 15 dolls (a full set). They are usually arranged on a tiered stand, called a hinadan, covered with a red carpet. At the top are the Emperor and Empress. The next step contains three court ladies (sannin-kanjo), followed by five musicians (gonin-bayashi), two ministers (udaijin and sadaijin), and three servants placed on the bottom row. There are also small pieces of furniture, small meal dishes, and other items. These are Squirrel’s hina-ningyo, a 5 doll set.

The holiday started out as a day when straw or paper dolls would be tossed into rivers and streams, or placed on small rafts and set adrift, to carry away sickness and bad luck (this custom, called”nagashi-bina”, is still practice in some parts of Japan). Shamans would transfer evil into them. Over time, as the dolls became more than just stick figures made out of straw, the dolls would be displayed first, and then as the dolls became more valuable, they were kept instead of being tossed away. Instead, food offerings would be placed before the dolls to get them to accept the transfer of the evil to them. There is a superstition that if you don’t put away the hina-ningyo as soon as March 3rd has passed, the daughter will get married late, or not at all.
The traditional food offerings placed before the dolls (and also enjoyed by the girls) are amazake, hishimochi, and hina-arare. Amazake, though translated as “sweet sake,” is not alcoholic. It’s made by infusing cooked rice (white or brown rice being the most common) with koji, the mold spores used to make soy sauce, miso and natto, and allowed to ferment for anywhere from 12-24 hours. Amazake is believed to purify the body of those who drink it as pure as its milky white color.

Hishimochi, are diamond shaped rice cakes with pink, green, and white layers. Pale pink represents peach blossoms, white symbolizes snow, and green symbolizes grass. This mirrors the seasonal change from winter (snow) to spring (grass) and the arrival of peach blossoms.

Hina-arare is sweetened puffed rice. Each color of the puffs has a special meaning–white is earth, red/pink is life, and green is trees. Hina-arare is believed to provide energy to those who eat it so that they can drive out their misfortune and disease.

We had a wonderful day, and as you can see, Squirrel thoroughly enjoyed herself.

Then only suggestion that I have is that somehow chocolate be incorporated into the festivities.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

gleek March 6, 2008 at 7:38 pm

what a fun day! i love all the hinamatsuri dolls. so pretty and elegant. thanks for all the explanations! chocolate IS sadly missing from that day :)


Lulu March 6, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Nice photos and explanation! I hope one day I will have a daughter to celebrate hinamatsuri with!!! It looks like you both had a lot of fun!!!

ps: I was lucky I got to eat a special strawberry short cake with some chocolate on March 3rd at a private students house! All festivals should have chocolate!


Kiki the Chicken March 6, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Holy cow!! I can’t believe how old the little Savage is getting when I just saw her a couple months ago!! She looks like a little lady in these pictures. I miss you guys! I hope the Bar went well… I’m sure it did, you’re a little smarty. Give Sav a kiss and tell Nate hi! Much love to you Ray


Phoe March 7, 2008 at 7:24 am

What a great day! I always love learning about new things. And that day quite nicely answers the question I asked my parents on every mother’s/father’s day: when is MY day?

Now I know! :)


Melissa Hodgen March 7, 2008 at 10:59 am

Savannah looked like she had a fabulous day! I love all things pink! How can you have a girls event that doesn’t involve chocolate?


mushroommeadows March 7, 2008 at 9:27 pm

squirrel really does seem like she’s enjoying the festivities! And yes, although those rice cakes and crackers look tasty, chocolate would top of the celebrations quite nicely! :)


Kasia March 8, 2008 at 4:23 am

OMG, that was fascinating! Thank you for all those wonderful pictures and insides! I imagine that Japan is a very fascinating place to live, with all those amazing traditions and customs. Party sounds like tons of fun and I’m happy to hear that Squirrel and you had such a sparkling time!
The thing you wrote about the dols being drawn (sp?) in the rivers reminded me of an old POlish custom, which is still celebrated on the first day of calendar spring – 21st of March. A big doll is made out of straw and dressed in some old clothes, and then drawn or burned (depending if the location has a river or not). It’s as well a symbol of all evil and personification of winter, which is being chased away.


Jackie March 8, 2008 at 9:21 pm

I am so jealous of such a holiday for the little ladies! Do they have one for the little boys too? I bet it isn’t full of as many fun stuff if there is one. Well done!


Maryam in Marrakesh March 10, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Is that you? Oh my, you are so pretty. And your daughter may just be the cutest thing I have ever seen!!!


Anonymous December 14, 2008 at 4:14 am

I’ve had hina-arare! I find those seasonally (probably during this holiday) at my local Japanese mart. I love them! They remind me of those Marlow Rainbow Drops you used to find here in the U.S. (retro candy from the UK, which no longer imports). Hishimochi looks yummy, but I never see those! : ( I live in NY, and we have many Japanese marts, but I think specialty stuff like these are rare and you have to be there at the right time to find them, if at all.


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