Hina Matsuri

A display at Nami’s house from last year.

In Japan there is a holiday on March 3rd called Hina Matsuri (雛祭り) which is also called “Girl’s Day” or “Doll Festival”, but let’s just stick to what it is really called. To my knowledge, I don’t know any particular things that happen on the day itself as the traditions of hina matsuri start in early February (basically once Setsubun is over). The idea of Hina Matsuri is that a display of dolls is set up in the house, sometimes this is only two dolls sitting cross legged next to each other, other times it is many dolls on a 5–7 tier display.

Tsurushi bina.

I was introduced to Hina Matsuri back in February 2010 when I was living in Matsudo, Japan for an internship. One of the teachers at my school invited myself and the other intern into her house to see her decorations for Hina Matsuri. She had a nice display of the two main dolls and she had a large 5 tier display of the huge set. She also had several strings hanging with various ornaments hanging from them called tsurushi bina which are strings holding several silk figures often dolls or animals or other cute things. The display was nice and it was a nice insight into the holiday in Japan. A year prior to this as a Valentine’s day present from one of my Japanese friends I got some Hina Arare (small rice cracker snack) packages, this is a very traditional Hina Matsuri snack, but I haven’t had any since then.

A display at Fukuoka Gokoku Shrine (seen last weekend).

So here’s the deal with the dolls, I learned this in the explanation by my Japanaese co-teacher this year to my kindergarten students. Here we go:

1st tier: The dolls on the top are the emperor on the left and the empress on the right. The emperor is referred to as Odairisama (お内裏様) and the empress is referred to as Ohinasama (お雛様), hence the Hina in Hina Matsuri. The empress and the emperor are often featured with a lantern on either side of them called bonburi (ぼんぼり) and a gold screen behind them called a kinbyoubu (金屏風). Odairisama holds a baton of sorts called a shaku and has a tall crown-like hat called a kanmuri, while ohinasama holds a paper fan and has a crown on her head.. 
2nd tier: Three women or court ladies referred to as the Sannin Kanjo (三人官女). The woman on the left is usually standing and holding a bucket, the woman in the middle is usually sitting down and holding a table-like ornament called a shimadai, the woman on the right is holding a long ladle. These three court ladies are also known as handmaidens and sake bearers.
3rd tier: Five musicians called the Gonin Bayashi (五人囃子). Left to right the items that the musicians are holding are an ougi (type of fan), a fue (type of flute), a small drum called a kotsuzumi, a large drum called a ootsudumi, and a taiko drum.
4th tier: The number of people has decreased to two and they are the counselor of the left/sadaijin (左大臣) and the counselor of the right/udaijin (右大臣). They each have a bow and arrow. The minister of the left is often younger an drunk (red of face) and the minister of the right is much younger and has a white beard. Between the ministers is an interesting diamond shaped 3 colored Japanese dessert called hishimochi.
5th tier: This tier has three people, a samurai guard on each side and a bearer of shoes in the middle.
Occasionally, there are other tiers with many more items, my favorite being sometimes there is an ox carrying a cart of things.

I leave you with a cute picture of a craft my students made for Hina Matsuri of Odairisama and Ohinasama.

Cute versions of the dolls.