Why are Dolls a Big Deal in Japan?

On Saturday, March 3, we will be celebrating Hina Matsuri at Morikami with all-day fun for the entire family. But, are you familiar with the significance of Doll’s (or Girls’) Day in Japan?

Hina Matsuri (ひな祭り), also known as Momo no Sekku (桃の節句) is Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day in Japan, a traditional holiday celebrated on March 3rd.

The holiday’s origin derived from a practice during the Heian period (794-1185) in which families sent straw or paper dolls in small boats down the river. It was believed these dolls became effigies that kept children safe by carrying illness, misfortunes, and bad spirits away with them.

The current practice of displaying a set of dolls representing a Japanese emperor and empress, along with their imperial court on an elaborate tiered stand, originated from the merchant class of the Edo period (1600 -1868). These fancy displays are customarily set out by families with daughters to wish good health and happiness for girls. The dolls are dressed in Heian period attire and the main figures, the emperor and empress, are often accompanied by three court ladies, five musicians and sometimes other attendants, guards, and figures representing famous poets.

In modern Japan, smaller homes and tight living conditions have resulted in compact sets consisting of only the emperor and empress being sold and displayed. They are usually displayed during the end of February and taken down promptly at the end of Hina Matsuri. It is believed that leaving the dolls up past March 4th will cause the daughter to marry late or miss her chance at marriage.

At Morikami’s celebration, visitors will get a chance to see a traditional Doll Festival display in its tiered glory. Also, guests will meet and learn about Miss Gunma, Morikami’s own Japanese Friendship Doll, who turns 91 this year!

We hope to see you at our Hina Matsuri!

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