Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) takes place on March 3 and celebrates "Girls' Day". Most homes with girls display dolls for this Doll's Festival and dedicate to them peach blossooms. Hina matsuri is also called Momo no Sekku which means festival of peach. Hina is ancient word meaning doll and matsuri means festival. Momo means peach and sekku is another word for festival. People celebrates this festival inside the home, at the seashore. Both parts are meant to ward off evil spirits from girls.
||A girl's first "Girls' Day" is called her hatzu-zekku. On a girl's hatzu-zekku it is very popular for the girl's
grandparents to buy her a display like the one at the right. This display can have up to seven tiers with dolls and small furniture. At the top is always the dolls of the emperor and empress with a miniature gilded screen placed behind them, very much like how it is in the imperial court.
Most families take out this display of dolls around mid-February and put it away immediately after Hina Matsuri is over. There is a superstition that says that families slow to put away the dolls will have trouble marrying off their daughters!
In this festival, dolls are loaded up in boats and sent out to sea with the wish that they take impurities and evil
spirits out of the girls and keep them at bay. Originally, people rubbed drawings of people on themselves and let them float away in a river. Impurities were thought to have been transferred to the drawing and the person would be free of evil. This evolved into the making of paper dolls and sending them downriver. Now the ritual is very involved with hundreds of elaborate dolls and a rich ceremony.
A wonderful film portrayal of the Hina display is Akira Kurosawa's film Dreams: Yume (1990) The film consists of a number of short fantastic episodes, and the second one allows a small boy a vision of five complete sets of hina, like the ones his sister is displaying, come to life and dancing for him because of his sorrow at the loss of the family peach orchard. The story emphasizes (as do the film's other episodes) the intimate link between Japanese culture and the Japanese natural environment.
It is hard to trace a direct line linking the Doll Festival of today through its immediate Meiji (1868 - 1912) and Edo Period (1603-1867) predecessors to its earliest origins. Dolls as toys (hihina), dolls as amulets (hitogata), and dolls as display elements (Kansho) seem to have coexisted for hundreds of years, one form influencing another, and creating yet new forms.
||This festival had its origin about 1,000 years ago in the Heian Period (794-1192). It is a traditional custom to display ceremonial dolls on tiers of shelves covered with scarlet carpet. The dolls are displayed on a five or seven-tiered shelf
(hina-dan), with the place of honour going to the highly valued emperor and empress
(dairi-sama) dressed in ancient court costumes. In attendance on lower shelves are ministers and other dignitaries, court ladies and musicians.
Miniature lacquered dinner sets, tea ceremony utensils, musical instruments, palanquins and other furnishings of court life are also displayed for extra authenticity, and with a folding screen in place behind the emperor and empress and two lanterns on either side, the hina dolls are indeed a sight to behold.
Nearly 13,000 American friendship dolls were sent to Japan in 1927 to join together with Japanese dolls to celebrate Hina Matsuri. The article on Doll Messengers of Friendship from America provides details on how Japanese girls celebrated Hina Matsuri in the 1920s.