Sunday, 2 March 2008

Hinamatsuri






Akari o tsukemashou bonbori ni明かりをつけましょう ぼんぼりに
Ohana o agemashou momo no hanaお花をあげましょう 桃の花
Go-nin bayashi no fue taiko五人ばやしの 笛太鼓
Kyo wa tanoshii Hinamatsuri今日は楽しいひな祭り

Let's light the lanterns
Let's set peach flowers
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums
Today is a joyful Dolls' Festival.




"Ureshii Hinamatsuri (Happy Hinamatsuri)."






Today is Girl’s Day!

Hinamatsuri is a festival that dates back to the Heian Era (794-1185) and is a day to wish girl’s good health and a long life. From generation to generation, ornamental Hina dolls are placed on display and offered sweetened puffed rice (hina-arare), white sake (shirozake) and lozenge-shaped rice cakes (hishi-mochi) and cherry or peach blossoms.

Also known as “momo no sekku” (Peach Festival), on March 3rd, the dolls are placed on a display in homes, schools and business’ on a five or seven-tiered stand covered in red carpet. On the top tier are the Empress and Emperor. The costume of the Empress is called the "juuni-hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial robe)." Even today the juuni-hitoe is worn at the Royal family's wedding ceremony; on the second tier are three ladies in waiting (sannin-kanjo); on the third shelf are five court musicians (gonin-bayashi); on the fourth tier are two government ministers (udaijin and sadaijin); and on the bottom shelf are three court officials. In some displays, court furniture and various small dishes of food are also represented.

The girl’s festival of today is far different from the original Hina Festival (which may have originated in China). Originally it is said that people transferred their own impurities and misfortunes to dolls and floated them away down the river. These dolls became associated with children’s dolls of the Heian Era and soon the ritual became known as Hina Festival. It wasn’t until the Mid-Edo Period that the dolls became displayed on shelves. A custom called "hina-okuri" or "nagashi-bina," in which people float paper dolls down rivers late on the afternoon of March 3rd still exists in various areas. The Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto celebrates the Nagashibina by floating these dolls between the Takano and Kamo Rivers to pray for the safety of children.

The displays range from lavish and expensive presentations to small and simpler sets. A traditional set of dolls can be very expensive. There are various grades for the sets, and some full sets cost more than a million yen! (But who can put a price on the preservation of the spirit or a children’s well-being!) Unless there is a set handed down from generation to generation, grandparents or parents buy them for a girl by her first Hinamatsuri.. However, since many Japanese live in small houses, royal couple version (with only the Emperor and the Empress dolls) is popular nowadays. There is a superstition that if you don't put away the hina-ningyo soon after the Festival, the daughter will get married late.

One of the most popular dishes associated with the festival are the pink, green and white diamond-shaped rice cakes called "Hishimochi." The pink (red) is for chasing evil spirits away, the white is for purity, and the green is for health.






“Kodomo no hi” or Boy’s Day (also known as Children’s Day) is celebrated on May 5th, and, alternatively at this time boy’s dolls are placed on display. Unlike the “purification” associated with Girl’s Day, however, Boy’s Day dolls represent strength and success in life. Carp, which are said to be able to swim up waterfall and are therefore associated with strengths, have also become associated with this day. One of the most beautiful displays across Japan is the sight of multicoloured carp flags are stretched across rivers and seemingly endless valleys.

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