March 3rd is a special holiday in Japan known as Hinamatsuri, or Girls’ Day. Hinamatsuri is traditionally celebrated by children, especially young girls, but is still a recognised holiday into adulthood. So what exactly is Hinamatsuri, and how is it celebrated? And of course, does it ever make an appearance in anime? If you are curious to learn more about this traditional Japanese holiday, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s learn a bit about Girls’ Day today, and have a look at its appearances in a few anime as well.
What is Hinamatsuri Anyway?
Hinamatsuri is celebrated every year on March 3rd, the 3rd day of the 3rd month. The primary celebration is not an actual party or event - it’s the display of a very specific and intricate set of dolls. These main dolls are the Obina (female) and the Mebina (male), along with their attendants and musicians. The dolls are all dressed in traditional clothing from the Heian period and are displayed on a tiered stand draped with red cloth. The original idea behind the display is actually a Heian-era wedding, but today the main dolls are usually just described as the Emperor and Empress. The dolls can be as simple as origami or other 2D displays, or ornate 3D ceramic dolls. The style of the dolls, along with how many are on the display, all depend on the budget of each family. The simplest displays feature just the Emperor and Empress, while more elaborate ones will have other dolls as well.
Most Japanese families will have a Hinamatsuri display if they have a daughter, and usually, the dolls are purchased before the girl’s first Hinamatsuri day. Often, they are purchased as a gift by the girl’s grandparents, especially considering a full Hinamatsuri display can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The display is usually put together by the daughter and her mother at the beginning of March and left on display until March 3rd. Traditionally, the dolls were put away as soon as Hinamatsuri had passed under the superstition that leaving them up any longer would result in the girl getting married late. Now, though, many families leave the dolls up for the entire month of March (especially considering how expensive they are!). Hinamatsuri dolls are not toys; they are for display only, and most girls put them up every year until they are around 10 years old.
In the days leading up to March 3rd, many girls will have small parties with their friends, eating traditional foods like multicoloured rice cakes, strawberries in red bean paste, and sashimi and vegetables on rice. One of the most traditional ways to celebrate Girls’ Day is to attend a nagashi-bina ceremony, where families make paper dolls and send them on a boat down a river.
Boys rarely participate in Hinamatsuri, instead waiting for Children’s Day in May to do anything special. Sorry, boys!
Hinamatsuri in Anime
Firstly, don’t be confused about the anime by the name of Hinamatsuri; that particular anime has nothing to do with Girls’ Day, despite its name! There are other places in anime to see Hinamatsuri displays and dolls, however. Two of the most beautiful Hinamatsuri displays can be seen in K-On! and in Recorder to Randoseru. The latter has a whole episode devoted to one of the characters being invited to celebrate in Girls’ Day festivities (we won’t spoil too much but we will say that the celebrations do not go as planned!). In Shirokuma Cafe, the penguins attempt to set up a Hinamatsuri display as well, but they fail to do it correctly despite their best efforts.
One of our favourite anime references to Hinamatsuri is in none other than Pokemon! Episode 52, Princess vs Princess, is about Jesse and Misty competing to become Queen of the Princess Festival, where all the boys have to listen to everything the girls tell them to do. The outfits that Jesse and Misty wear are actually inspired by Hinamatsuri clothes, and there is even a Hinamatsuri display made out of Pokemon! The episode was meant to air on March 3rd originally, but sadly was delayed due to the infamous events of Episode 38 (which caused epileptic fits in some viewers) that threw off the airing schedule by four months. If you’re looking for a particularly fun way to celebrate Hinamatsuri otaku-style, we recommend watching this episode, especially as it's easy to jump in and enjoy without watching an entire anime just to appreciate the Hinamatsuri reference.
Hinamatsuri really does not have a parallel in Western culture. It's a uniquely Japanese holiday that is celebrated very simply - but very expensively. Considering the price, it's a bit surprising that it has continued to be celebrated to this day but Hinamatsuri is alive and well in modern Japan! Starting in February, displays of dolls for sale begin to show up in all the major department stores. Hinamatsuri does not have to be so extreme, though; some families will make a more simple display themselves. This year, why not try making your own Obina and Mebina from origami? Then you can celebrate, even on a budget! Oh, and watch Pokemon, too!
Would you like to have celebrated Hinamatsuri as a child, or would you like to celebrate it with your own daughter? Did you know about Girls’ Day before this article? Have you ever seen Hinamatsuri in an anime or manga before? Drop us a comment below!