Japanese Culture

What do Japanese do on Hinamatsuri (Girl's day)? 【Customs and Origin】

Hinamatsuri (ひな祭り), which is called Doll's day or Girl’s Day in English, is one Japanese spring event on March 3rd. People celebrate and pray for girls' health and happiness. It is custom to display Japanese ornamental dolls on a tiered stand with a red carpet-like material and have a special meal with one's family.

ひな (hina) means doll in ancient Japanese , and 祭り (matsuri) means festival!
We'll share not only what Hinamatsuri is like but also its origin and the history of Hinamatsuri!

Hinamatsuri (ひな祭り) is a calm spring festival with a special meal and beautiful Japanese dolls!

Hinamatsuri is a calm festival. Japanese people display many beautiful Japanese dolls and enjoy a special meal with family to celebrate.

2~3 weeks before March 3rd, mothers and daughters start to display Japanese dolls, and they get peach flowers and ingredients for a special meal and snacks for the day of Hinamatsuri.

On the day of Hinamatsuri, grandmas and mothers make a special meal, and they make offerings for Japanese dolls to pray for their daughter's continued health and happiness. They have the special meal with their family for lunch or dinner with the Japanese dolls in sight.

Some girls will have parties with their friends on Hinamatsuri!
I'm looking forward to having the special meal that my grandma makes for Hinamatsuri every year!

桃の節句 (momono-sekku)

ひな祭り (hinamatsuri) is also called 桃の節句 (momono-sekku). 桃の節句 (momono-sekku) is one of the Japanese 5 seasonal event days which are related to seasonal plants or flowers. For Japanese people, those events are important for purifying and praying for a happy family life.

Around March 3rd, peach flowers bloom, so this day is called 桃の節句 (momono-sekku). Ancient Japanese also thought peaches have the power to purify!  

Why do Japanese people display dolls on Hinamatsuri?

お内裏様 (odairisama) と お雛様(ohinasama)

For ancient Japanese people, dolls had an important role for driving away impurity.

It is said that Hinamatsuri originated from Chinese culture to purify oneself by bathing in a river. The Japanese royal family started (なが)(びな) (nagashibina), which is to float paper dolls down a river. These dolls carry away their impurity, so they don't have to bathe in the river.

As decades went by, the Japanese royals used various types of dolls, such as woven dolls and ceramic dolls. In the Heian period (794-1185), they started 雛遊び (hina-asobi), or in other words, playing with those dolls as toys. Then that custom was gradually spread from the royal society to samurai society. In the Edo period (1603-1868), the custom of displaying dolls spread to ordinary people.

In the old era, many children couldn't live long. People thought it was because of impurity and bad luck because they didn't have scientific and medical knowledge. So parents prayed for a long, happy life for their children by purifying the children using dolls.
For Japanese people, dolls are the proof of love from parents to children!

What kind of dolls are displayed?

The most important dolls are the male and female dolls, called 男雛 (obina) and 女雛 (mebina) respectively. They are representative of the Emperor and Empress of Japan in a Heian period wedding.

If a family wants, they can buy more dolls to represent servants, musicians, and ladies of the court and display them on the 雛壇 (hinadan), or the multi-tiered stand. It depends on the family’s budget, because the dolls can get quite expensive.

The 1st tier お内裏様とお雛様 (odairisama to ohinasama) 


The Empress doll holds a folding fan in her hands, while the emperor holds a 笏 (shaku), a ritual baton. The shaku is said to have the important things about the ceremony written on it.

The male and female dolls are modeled after the Japanese Emperor and Empress because they are the perfect couple!

The 2nd tier  三人官女 (sannin-kanjo)


The second tier holds the 三人官女 (San’ninkanjo), or the court ladies. They serve rice wine (sake) to the male and female dolls, which is why they have sake equipment.

The 3rd tier 五人囃子 (gonin-bayashi)


The third tier has the musicians, the 五人囃子 (gonin bayashi). Three have drums of different sizes, one has a flute, and one only has a fan, because he is the singer!

The 4th tier 随身 (zui-jin)

The fourth tier has the 右大臣 (udaijin) and 左大臣 (sadaijin), the ministers of the right and left. These could be the Emperor's bodyguards, or administrators in Kyoto. Sometimes they hold bows and arrows.

左大臣 (sadijin), the left minister, is an old man and has higher ranking than Right minister. He is there to explain to children that respect for elderly is important!

The 5th tier 三仕丁 (sanjicho)

The fifth tier, holds three helpers, 仕丁 (shichō), or protectors, 衛士 (eji), of the Emperor and Empress.

If you look at their faces, one is smiling, the other is crying, and the other is angry. It expresses that emotions are important for humans!

The sixth and seventh platform hold different types of furniture or tools.

Miscellaneous decoration

屏風 (byoubu)

Behind the dolls are the 屏風 (byoubu), the folding screen. There can be many styles of this with varying numbers of folds.

雪洞 (bonbori)

The 雪洞 (bonbori) are lanterns for the dolls. The lampshade is called 火袋 (hibikuro) which is decorated in cherry or plum blossoms.

There is a set of these dolls with a price of over $5000!
But there are cheep but cute ones too!

Special meals for Hinamatsuri!

Japanese people have a special meal on Hinamatsuri. The main dish is ちらし寿司 (chirashizushi), which is made of vinegar rice, stir fried egg, fish meat, fish eggs, and shrimp.

ちらし寿司 (chirashizushi)

People also eat はまぐりのお吸い物 (hamaguri-no-osuimono), clam soup with ちらし寿司.

For dessert, they eat よもぎ餅 (yomogi-mochi), mochi that has mugwort kneaded into it, 菱餅 (Hishimochi), a rhombus-shaped mochi, and 雛あられ (hina-arare), small sweet rice crackers in various colors. Adults drink 白酒 (shirozake), white sweet sake.

雛あられ (hinaarare) is colorful and cute. It is said that each color has the power to purify and drive bad luck away!

Happy spring and family love💛

Hinamatsuri's customs may have changed over the eras, but a parent's love for their children never changes. This Hinamatsuri, if you have the chance, take a look at Japanese dolls and eat the special foods for this day!

Japanese dolls are pretty!
I was little scared Japanese dolls but I'm so glad my parents got them for our family!

-Japanese Culture
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