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Dolls & Divas: The Sparkling World of Girls’ Day in Japan

Hey there, culture buffs! As we gear up for Children’s Day here in the U.S., let’s pack our imaginary bags and teleport to the Land of the Rising Sun. Why, you ask? Well, Japan has its own spectacular twist on celebrating kiddos – particularly the little divas! Picture every dollhouse coming to life, hosting a tea party that would make the Mad Hatter green with envy. That, my friends, is Hinamatsuri, the Girls’ Day in Japan!

While we pamper our young ones with love and gifts this Children’s Day, let’s take a vibrant, confetti-filled detour and dive into a world where dolls rule supreme. Buckle up and keep your tiaras on!

Feature Gilrs' Day in Japan

The Origin of Hinamatsuri (Girls' Day in Japan)

We were returning the clock to the Heian period (794-1185) when Hinamatsuri was the cool new kid on the block. Originally, this day was about warding off evil spirits with paper dolls. The ancient Japanese would let dolls float down rivers like tiny, fashionable ghostbusters. As time jazzed on, the dolls ditched the rivers and settled down in lavish displays in homes across Japan.

Now, Girls’ Day in Japan is a festival celebrated on March 3rd per year. It is aimed at praying for the health and happiness of young ladies in the family. You could say it’s kind of like a Barbie-themed New Year’s party for girls!

Hina Dolls

Now, before we move on, let’s give a quick shoutout to the Hina-ningyo (Hina dolls) – the ultimate VIPs of Girls’ Day in Japan. Think of them as the royal family of the doll kingdom. Dressed to the nines, with kimonos that would make a fashion designer weep with joy, these dolls represent the Emperor, Empress, and their court.

Each set of dolls represents characters from ancient court life, and they’re arranged in a specific pecking order. The Emperor and Empress get VIP treatment at the top, while musicians, ministers, and samurai take the lower tiers. Every Japanese family will prepare for a Hina dolls’ red-carpet event on this day.

The Grand Display

As we sashay into the homes during Girls’ Day, prepare to have your socks knocked off! The humble abodes magically transform into regal palaces for Hina dolls. The pièce de résistance is the Hinadan, a tiered display stand that’s more dolled up than a Christmas tree on steroids! These stands are decked with red fabric and are the red carpet for the Hina dolls.

Every level of the Hinadan is like a different chapter in a fairy tale book. The top shelf is reserved for the Emperor and Empress doll, and the lower shelves host their entourage, including musicians, warriors, and court ladies. Each character is placed with a precision that would make a watchmaker proud.

In modern Japan, the display becomes a mix of tradition with a pinch of 21st-century flair. From mini cherry blossom trees to LED lights, some folks even go all out with themed exhibits. Think: Samurai meets Star Wars – yes, it’s a thing!

Hinadan with characters of One Piece, from JAJAN shope
Hinadan with characters of "One Piece," from JAJAN shop

Dress Code: Legacy Weaved!

A. Kimonos

Let’s cut to the chase – on Girls’ Day in Japan, kimonos are the queen bees of the fashion hive. These garments are wrapped around the little ladies like a warm embrace from history itself. The patterns on these bad boys (or, should I say, elegant girls) are often as intricate as a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and each stitch tells a story.

Kimonos are often family heirlooms, passed down like precious treasure maps. They’re not just fabric; they’re the threads that weave families together across generations. And yes, the patterns and colors have meanings – from floral designs that sing the songs of spring to vibrant colors that are as mood-lifting as your morning coffee.

A girl wearing Kimono on the Hinamatsuri day
A girl wearing Kimono on the Hinamatsuri day

B. Kanzashi

If the kimono is a garden, then Kanzashi is the butterfly flitting about. On Hinamatsuri, these hair ornaments are as essential as the icing on a cupcake. They’re crafted meticulously, often by hand, and represent different seasons and festivals.

Hinamatsuri Kanzashi usually features peach blossoms (PS: We have posted a detailed guide on how to DIY kanzashi blossoms here~) since Girls’ Day in Japan is also known as the Peach Festival. In ancient times, the Japanese ancestors believed these ornaments warded off evil spirits. Nowadays, they just ward off fashion faux pas.

C. Obi Belt

Obi belts are an extravaganza around the waist. These wide belts, made of brocade or heavy silk, go around the waist and tie at the back in a big, elaborate bow called a ‘musubi.’ The knots themselves are an art form and can be tied in different shapes – there are the Taiko knot, the Bunko, the Butterfly knot, etc.

The color and pattern of the obi often contrast with the kimono, making it a silent firework in this festival for girls.

Different Obi Belt Knots from Xiao Hongshu
Different Obi Belt Knots from Xiao Hongshu

D. Geta Sandals

Geta sandals are like the lovechild of clogs and flip-flops, raised by a Japanese carpenter. Traditionally, they’re made from a single piece of wood with a fabric thong to keep your foot in place.

But Girls’ Day calls for a little extra oomph, so Geta sandals break out the good china, figuratively speaking. They sport vibrant colors, floral prints, and sometimes even little bells for that jingle with every step. They’re like the art of walking – wobbly at first but pure poetry in motion once you’ve got the hang of it.

Girl wearing Geta sandals on the Hinamatsuri day
Girl wearing Geta sandals on the Hinamatsuri day

E. Hakama

Finally, let’s surf the wave of the Hakama. These aren’t just skirt pants; they’re a statement. On Girls’ Day in Japan, some girls don a Hakama like they’re getting ready for a fashion showdown at high noon. Imagine a samurai, a poet, and a fashionista had a brainstorming session – the Hakama is what they’d come up with.

Originally for men, these wide-legged trousers were like the OG uniform for samurai. But, over time, ladies started eyeing these billowy wonders and thought, “Hey, why let guys have all the fun?”

Now, Hakama can be as varied as the toppings at a frozen yogurt shop. Some have pleats for days; others are more like long skirts. The colors and patterns are more mixed up than a Rubik’s Cube, but they always look picture-perfect. They’re tied at the waist and fall down to the ankles, making you feel like you’re gliding rather than walking.

Girl wearing Hakama on the Girls' day in Japan
Girl wearing Hakama on the Girls' day in Japan

The Yummy Side of Girls' Day

Now, let’s take a moment to talk about the yummy factor of Girls’ Day. That isn’t just any old snack attack. Oh no, the food on Girls’ Day is as traditional as the kimonos and as colorful as the obi belts!

A. Hina-arare

First up, let’s talk about Hina-arare, a kind of bite-sized rice cracker with a hint of sweetness. Grab some glutinous rice, give it a good steam bath until it’s tender, then let it dry. Once dried, break it into bits and take them for a swim in a sizzling wok with sugar syrup. The result? A hailstorm of sweet puffed Hina-arare.

Hina Arare
Hina Arare

These rice crackers are the most representative food of Girls’ Day in Japan. They are small and colorful, perfect for a festival for kids. They’re popped like popcorn during a movie marathon, and before you know it, you’re trying to find out who ate them all (spoiler alert: it was you)!

B. Hisshi Mochi

Then there’s the Hisshi Mochi, a symbolic food for the Hinamatsuri festival. It is a diamond-shaped rice cake that’s like a love letter to your taste buds. To create this chewy monarch, prepare three bowls of glutinous rice flour mixed with sugar and water – one with green matcha powder, another with plain white, and the third with pink food coloring. It’s like painting with flavors! Layer them in a square dish, steam until they’re willing to hug your spoon, then cut them into diamond shapes.

Hisshi Mochi
Hisshi Mochi

This chewy treat has three layers, each with its own distinct flavor and color. It’s like biting into a delicious traffic light of taste.

C. Shirozake

Last but not least, there’s Shirozake, a traditional sweet, non-alcoholic sake for the kiddos. To brew this potion, mix malted rice (koji) with steamed rice and water, then let it sit for a few days. Once it’s done playing hide-and-seek, strain it and add sugar for that sweet embrace. Pour it into tiny cups for the little ones to sip, and watch them become miniature sommeliers for the day!

Shirozake, a kind of rice wine

It’s like giving your taste buds a cozy blanket to snuggle in. The tiny cups often make the kids feel oh-so-fancy as they make their best tea party impressions.

Last Sprinkle of Love: Sending Off the Dolls

Girls’ Day concludes with a heartwarming crescendo. The dolls, having graced the stage with their splendor, must now take a bow and exit. That isn’t just a case of cleaning up; it’s akin to tucking in beloved family members after a long day. The Japanese hold the belief that these dolls are like spiritual ninjas, absorbing all the bad vibes during their grand display. As they’re packed away, it’s like they’re whispering, “We gotchu!” – these little warriors in silk and brocade have fought the good fight!

So that’s it, my friends – a journey through Girls’ Day in Japan that’s as rich as a chocolate cake. From the flutter of kimonos to the clink of tiny sake cups, Girls’ Day is a treasure trove of tradition, love, and a dash of fabulousness. May the spirit of Hinamatsuri inspire you to celebrate the dolls in your own life with gusto and grace! 

Have a good day

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