Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hinamatsuri (Girls Doll Festival Day in Japan)

Hinamatsuri is a day for girls in Japan. On March 3rd, Japanese families who have a girl celebrate the growth and development of the girl. A set of beautifully costumed dolls, which belong to the girl is taken out for display, with decoration of blossomed peach branches.

A set of dolls consists of a pair of prince and princess (emperor and empress), ladies in waiting, musicians, and the list goes on and on, depending on the family's financial circumstances and the availability of space. Some families have an antique doll set, which have been passed down to generations.

When a girl is born, parents or grandparents buy a set of dolls for her. But many households don't have enough space to display two or three full sets of dolls. So that when the second or the third girl is born, the set tend to be abbreviated or smaller.

I always had weird feeling towards hinamatsuri, since my childhood. My parents weren't poor, but we belonged to humble working class. They didn't have enough time and interest to invest to this kind of vanity. But they still bought dolls for me and for my sisters, just because they were supposed to do so. The day wasn't particularly special or joyous.

I suspect that the custom of buying a set of gorgeous dolls to every single Japanese girl is rather recent phenomena, because many Japanese people were perpetually poor until late 1950s. Only wealthy families must have cerebrated the occasion with antique dolls which have been passed down to generations.

More than ten years ago, I went back to Japan around the time of hinamatsuri. I opened one of the closets in a very quiet house. There, I found my dolls. I remembered the busy and noisy days of my childhood, and I realized that I was deeply yarning for what I hated when I was growing up.

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