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Sunday, July 19, 2009


Hinamatsuri-a special day for japanese girls

Custom in our opinion is a habitual practice that is carried out through the generation. Every country has it's own unique customs. Out of all the fascinating customs, the ones from Japan has caught our interest.

If we speak about dolls, we usually think that it is a toy for children to play with. In Japan, however, they are not merely used for the entertainment of children, but also used for household shrines, formal gift-giving and especially for festival celebrations.

In Japan, they have a festival called "Hinamatsuri", which means the Doll Festival or Girl's Day. The festival is held on the 3rd of March. In this festival, ornamental dolls representing people of high status in traditional court dress of the Heian period are displayed on a platform that looks like a staircase. The dolls are arranges according to their status. The first platform holds the Imperial dolls, which are the Emperor and Empress dolls.

The second platform holds three court ladies dolls each holding an equipment for sake, a type of japanese wine while the third platform holds five male musician dolls.

The Minister or Daijin dolls are placed on the fourth platform while onn the fifth platform are arranged the three helper or Samurai dolls which serve as protectors for the Emperor and Empress. The lower platforms usually displays a variety of miniature furnitures, tools and carriages.

On Hinamatsuri, families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls besides to ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful. The celebrations takes place both inside the house and also beside the seashore to ward off evil spirits from the girls. The families worked hard making the display between the middle of February to the 3rd of March. If the dolls are still displayed after the 3rd of March, it is believed that the girls will not get a good husband in the future. The Hinamatsuri dolls are all hand-made, explaining the details and beautiful compositions.

Families also serve special foods on Hinamatsuri. One of the delicacies is "Hina-Arare". Hina-Arare is a puffy snack that have a sweet taste. Each colour of the snack-puff is said to have a special or symbolic meaning. White is 'Earth', pink or red is 'Life' while green represents 'Trees'. They are believed to provide energy and also drive out misfortunes and also diseases.
These colourful snacks is placed on the dolls display and are oly eaten on Hinamatsuri.

"Hishi-Mochi" is a type of rice cake and are also placed on the dolls display.

Besides sweet things, "Hamaguri" or clams are also served on Hinamatsuri. They are cooked in a special way and are usually coloured to entertain the girls.

"Hamaguri Ushio-Jiru" is clear soup with clams floating in it. The japanese have a legend that each pair of a clam's shells is a slightly different shape than the other clams. Therefore, a single shell only fits it's original partner. If the clam have two matching shells, it means that the girl will have a good husband when she grows up.

There is also "chirashizushi" or scattered sushi. As the name implies, the contents inside the box are arranged in a random manner. They have a many ways to arrange the sushi, some of which are shown below. Prawns,fish, salmon eggs, crab meat, squid and beef are the usual ingredients used to make the sushi.

"Wagashi" is a traditional japanese cofectionary that is usually served with tea. It is mainly made using natural based ingredients such as plants and are sweet to the tongue. The japanese like to make artistic shapes such as rabbits or fruits when making wagashi. The filling inside the cake varies from red bean paste to strawberries and even ice-cream.

There are also Hinamatsuri foods that are already packed and neatly arranged inside a box that can be bought at the local store. These can be given as gifts if the family member lives far away from home. One of the examples of ready-made Hinamatsuri food is shown below.

The three balls on the stick are called "Dango". They are small, sticky balls of rice flour and are extremely sweet. The pinkish white ball at the bottom is called "Sakura-Mochi". Mochi is japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice. The four cute dolls at the upper left corner are actually rice crackers inside packets designed like dolls. These type of snacks are ideal for little girls who have a sweet tooth.

The Hinamatsuri festival is truly a special day for all girls at all ages in Japan.

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