Hina-matsuri – „The Dolls’ Festival” – is dedicated to girls and it boasts about a history of over one thousand years. On their first anniversary, little girls receive from their grandparents or from one of their aunts a set of dolls to be displayed every year. It is also possible that girls should inherit such dolls from generation to generation.
The special set of dolls, called dairi-bina, is usually made up of fifteen pieces representing: the emperor and the empress, three Court ladies, five musicians who play traditional instruments, two ministers (a young and an old one), and three officials ready to entertain the people around them. At the bottom of the tiered staircase, covered with a beautiful red carpet, one can see various musical instruments, mirrors, all kinds of utensils, as well as trays with the traditional mochi, sweet sake called shirozake and possibly all kinds of traditional food.
Hina-matsuri originates in the old Chinese ritual of purification the Japanese have changed into Hina-nagashi („Floating dolls on the water”). It was traditionally held along a river or on the shore of the sea or of a lake. According to folk belief, diseases and disasters are brought about by baleful influences possessing the body. One way to get rid of such harmful effects would be to transfer them to paper or cloth dolls (katashiro) by rubbing the defiled body with them and then throw them into the water. The dolls are believed to carry away all the impurities affecting the body. There are still shrines where on March 3rd such a ritual of purification is still practiced.
However, the participants in Hina-matsuri usually buy at the shrines a special set of two dollls laid in a woven reed or straw little basket. The dolls (nagashi-bina) are set afloat after the ritual of purification held by priests and after the speeches of the representatives of the government and / or of the community.
One of the best-known shrines famous for Hina-nagashi is Shimogamo-jinja in Kyōto, where the ritual is still a great feast to the eye.
A man and a woman dressed in old court-style regalia, much like the hina dolls themselves, take each a basket with two dolls and let them float on the water of the sacred stream flowing through the Shimogamo-shrine grounds.
In imitation of their gestures, some of the representatives mentioned above do the same thing. Most of the onlookers themselves are eager to take their turn. Even if the practice is not backed up by the ancient belief any longer, the festivity gives the impression of a collective prayer for everybody’s health.
Festivaluri japoneze – În spiritul tradiţiei
Editura T.C. Sen Sibiu – Constanţa
Photos: ©Angela Hondru