Hina-Matsuri, The Japanese Doll Festival

Hina matsuri

The Japanese Doll Festival (Hina-Matsuri), or Girls’ Day, is celebrated on March 3.  Hina are the special dolls for the occasion and Matsuri is the Japanese word for a festival or holiday.  Families and communities wish health and happiness for all girls on this special day.

Hina dolls are typically a gift from a girl’s grandparents for her first Hina-Matsuri, or she may receive a set that has been passed down in her family. The dolls are beautifully detailed and represent the royal court.


Starting weeks before the festival, families display the dolls on a tiered stand that is covered with red cloth.  The stand may have 5 or 7 tiers, with the the top tier reserved for the Emperor and Empress, followed by guardians, musicians, and servants.  The display also includes small meal dishes, small furniture pieces like chests and stands, and fresh peach blossoms.  The display should be put away quickly after March 3.  Otherwise, according to a legend, the girls in the family will marry late.

Some of the special festival foods include hina-arare (sweet, bite-sized, colored rice snacks), chirashi-zushi (“scattered sushi”), ushio-jiru (a clear clam soup), and hishi-mochi (layers of thin rice cakes – pink for chasing away evil spirits, white for purity, and green for health).  Shirozake (sweet white sake made from fermented rice) is a drink enjoyed by the adults, while the kids have the non-alchoholic version, amazake.

Go Further…

  • Watch a woman preparing her hina-ningyo display


Ureshii Hina-Matsuri!

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Food Photo Credits:  hina-arare – By Arashiyama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons  chirashi-zushi – By Arashiyama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons ushio jiru – flickr: Dylan Hardesty    amazake – flickr: Yusuke Kawasaki





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