In Japan, the hinamatsuri雛祭り, or doll festival, is held on March 3rd to celebrate and pray for the health and happiness of one's daughters. The modern hinamatsuri can trace its roots back to the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868). The tradition stems from a combination of traditional doll play and the much older practice of nagashi-bina流し雛, which involves transferring one’s bad luck to a paper doll and allowing it to be washed away in a river. Another name for the hinamatsuri is momo-no-sekku桃の節句, or peach festival. Peach blossoms, which symbolize a happy marriage, are an important motif in hinamatsuri decorations.
The hinamatsuri is also a day when the women of the household can relax and enjoy delicious food all day. Typical treats include small multi-colored rice crackers called arareあられ, pink, white, and green diamond-shaped rice cakes called hishimochi菱餅, bowls of vinegared rice topped with sushi and cut vegetables called chirashizushiちらし寿司, and clam soup. Sweet shirozake白酒 and non-alcoholic amazake甘酒 are also popular drinks.
While everyone enjoys the food and drinks, the main attraction is the elaborate display of porcelain dolls called hina-ningyo雛人形. These dolls are arranged on tiered platforms made for displaying the dolls called hinadan雛壇. The top step is where the dolls representing the emperor (obina男雛) and empress (mebina女雛) are placed. A typical seven tier hinadan has three ladies-in-waiting below the emperor and empress, followed by five young musicians, two court ministers, three servants, and tools, furniture, and carriages on each successively lower tier.
There will be a seven tier hina-ningyo display open to the public in the Japan Information Center Gallery at the Consulate General of Japan in New York between Friday, February 17 and Monday, March 27. Gallery hours are 9:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. We are closed on weekends and holidays. We kindly ask that you bring a photo ID for access to the building.