Hina dolls

Hina Dolls: Unveiling Japanese Traditions Hinamatsuri

What are Hina Dolls?

Hina Dolls
Hina Dolls

Hina dolls are items used in the Hina Doll Festival(Hinamatsuri), which is held annually on March 3. Hinamatsuri is one of the traditional Japanese festivals, called Momo no Sekku (Peach Festival), and is mainly celebrated to pray for the healthy growth of girls. During Hinamatsuri, a set of Hina dolls is displayed in each home. This festival is a culture that is very familiar to me, having been born and raised in Japan. When I was a child, I felt lucky to be able to eat sweets and snacks, but as an adult, I have come to know more about its meaning. Whether or not to set up hina dolls varies from household to household, and not all households do so. In many Japanese families, the dolls are given as gifts from grandparents to each family.

What is the origin of Hinamatsuri?

The origin of Hinamatsuri dates back to the mid-Heian period(794-1185). At that time, an exorcism ceremony was held on a specific day in March to pray for good health. The custom of inviting Onmyōji (yin-yang masters), praying to the gods of heaven and earth, offering seasonal foods, and entrusting one's own misfortune to dolls, which were then floated into the sea or rivers was widespread. At the same time, "playing with dolls" was popular among upper-class girls, who played with paper dolls and pavilions. These seasonal rituals and girls' play mixed together over the years to become the origin of today's Hinamatsuri.

It was during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) that Hinamatsuri was fixed on March 3rd, initially as a day of purification. In 1629, a grand Hinamatsuri was held in Kyoto, which led to the Edo shogunate to hold the festival as well. In the mid-Edo period, Hinamatsuri spread from the upper class to the townspeople, from the big cities to the countryside, and the custom of celebrating not only women but also the birth of a baby girl on the first Doll's Festival became more and more popular. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the new government temporarily abolished the traditional custom, but the culture of Hinamatsuri, which had taken root over a long period of time, was deeply rooted in people's lives, and it was resumed. Hinamatsuri, Children’s Day, Tanabata Festival, and other festive events have been passed down to the present day and continue to thrive.

Types of Hina Dolls

Hina doll sets can have up to seven tiers, with the dolls on display from the first to the fifth tier. Each tier has its own type of dolls, and the following dolls are placed in order from the top to the bottom.

  • Shinno(親王): The Emperor and Empress are the models.
  • Sannin-kanjo(三人官女): Women who support the emperor and empress at court.They are three courtesans.
  • Goninbayashi(五人囃子): A group of five court-musician dolls who play flutes and drums to create a joyful atmosphere.
  • Zuijin(随身): A pair of old men and young men with bows and arrows who guard the court.
  • Shicho(仕丁): A court janitor.

There are five types of dolls, but the sixth and seventh tiers are not dolls but tools.

  • Hina-dogu (雛道具): Wedding implements of the upper class samurai family, such as scissors boxes, brazier, tea utensils, etc. are placed.
  • Other implements(その他道具): Stacked boxes, baskets, and goshoguruma are placed.

Since most sets of dolls used for Hinamatsuri are expensive, it is rare for each family to prepare up to the 7th tier. Basically, most people prepare up to 3 or 5 tiers and display them in a compact manner. At some events or shopping malls, full 7-tiered sets are displayed, so if you have a chance to see them, please enjoy viewing them.

Types of tools used in Hinamatsuri

In addition to the aforementioned hina dolls, various other tools are used for Hinamatsuri. The following are just a few of them, but each of them has its own wish and meaning.

  • Byobu(屏風): It’s folding screen and these are used to express the wish that the future will shine brightly.
  • Bonbori (ぼんぼり): They are used to light the way at night.
  • Sanpo(三宝): A stand on which the celebratory sake cups are placed.
  • Takatsuki(高杯): A vessel used to present red and white rice cakes to a person of high rank.
  • Hishidai (菱台): A vessel used to display water chestnuts with three colors of rice cakes stacked on top of each other.
  • Sakura-tachibana(桜橘): Cherry blossoms(sakura) and tachibana have been decorated since ancient times as they are said to have the power to ward off evil.

Hina Matsuri Song (Happy Hinamatsuri)

If you are familiar with Hinamatsuri, you have probably heard the famous Hinamatsuri song. The name of the song is "Ureshii Hinamatsuri”. In Japan, every year around the time of Hinamatsuri, the song is played at shopping malls and other places where events are held. I feel happy that this season has come when I hear this song. Please try to find the aforementioned hina doll characters in the lyrics.


Where can you buy hina dolls?


Hina dolls are a part of Japanese traditional culture, but some online sites sell products that are not from Japan. Such products are very inexpensive and some of the details of the dolls may be poorly made, so it is better to choose from a reliable online site. The following products are made by Japanese craftsmen, so if you want to choose a high quality product, please take a look.