3 day of March is the Girls' Day in Japan, called the Hina Matsuri (雛 祭 り) Doll Festival, is a typical Japanese feast. The dolls are the symbols of the Hina Matsuri and are arranged on an altar in precisely the same way every year.
Platforms with red cloths on steps are arranged to expose the dolls. According to Japanese belief, people once believed that dolls possessed the power to ward off evil spirits, disease, misfortune, bad luck and thus protect the owner. So for the Japanese, the Hina are many more than just decorating articles. The dolls are often gifted by the girl's mother's family when she will perform her first Hina Matsuri.
Two weeks before 3 in March, families set up the Hina Ningyo, a name given to a sophisticated set of dolls and decorative miniature objects. Similar to the cribs set up at Christmas time in the West, Hina Ningyo dolls are dressed in the style of the imperial court of the Heian Era (794 to 1185) and represent the Japanese society of the time. The most complete sets of these dolls are mounted on 7 special exhibitors steps decorated with red silk. On each shelf, from top to bottom, the dolls are displayed in the following order:
- The first and highest level is for the "Dairisama" (Imperial Palace), so that this level is reserved for the Emperor and the Empress richly dressed. The costume of the Empress is called "jūnihitoe" (ceremonial mantle of twelve layers of the Heian Period). Even today the kimono "jūnihitoe" is used in the marriage ceremony of the royal family. The "imperial couple" must always occupy the highest step and the Emperor always to the left of the Empress.
- Three Ladies of the Court, representing the class of the aristocracy
- Five Musicians, representing the artists and literati
- 2 Ministers and offerings, representing government and religious officials
- 3 Samurai and Plants, Representing Warrior Class and Feudal Domains
- Objects used in the Court - lacquered furniture miniatures, kimono chests, dressing table, tea ceremony utensils, sewing box.
- Objects used outside the court, representing the common people - lacquered miniatures of ox cart, palanquem, stackable boxes, cart of flowers
- The origins of Hina Matsuri
The celebration dates from the Heian Period (794-1185), and originates in ancient Chinese customs to rid of evil spirits and remove bad luck by placing them inside dolls, and releasing them into the river. This ritual was meant to want the girls to grow up healthy, ward off evil spirits, sickness, misfortune, ward off bad luck, and get a good marriage together.
At first, the dolls were made of paper and played on some river on 3 day. It was believed that the dolls attracted evil spirits and thus throwing them into the river, meant that all the bad fluids would be carried by the current, protecting the owners.
Over the years, the dolls have been improved. From paper dolls they became true luxury dolls, wearing silk kimonos.
Nowadays, the dolls symbol of the Hina-matsuri are considered family inheritance, they are precious pieces carefully packed and kept until the period of the festival. Due to the high price of delicate pieces and the lack of space, many families have increasingly opted for compact models that have only the Empress and the Emperor.