Hina Ningyo (Dolls for the Girls' Festival)
The "momo-no-sekku" celebrating the "hina matsuri" of today stems from an
old Chinese custom "joshi-no-matsuri (Festival of the Serpent Day)". In order
to offer petitions (prayers) for health and happiness in the coming year people
ritually transferred their misfortunes and sins to "hito-gata" at the waterside
and set them adrift in the river. This custom was performed on the first day
of the "mi" ("snake" in Chinese zodiacal symbols) in March and it was accompanied
by the drinking of sake made from peaches, which was believed to have the
power to drive away devils. It was in the Nara era (710-794) that this custom
was introduced to Japan and it was on this day each year that the "kyokusui-no-en"
was held among the aristocrats of the Heian era (794- 1185).
Today this custom still lives in the Tottori region, and the "nagashi-bina
(Drifting Hina Dolls)", which is celebrated on March 3 of the lunar calendar,
is considered to be an inheritance from the above festival.
The word "hina" is derived from "hiina", a pair of male/female dolls handcrafted
by female servants at the Court. References to "hina" appear in the literary
output of women writers of the Heian era, such as in "Makura-no-Soshi (The
Pillow Book)", "Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji)", and "Kagero Nikki (The
Gossamer Years)". The archetype of the pair of male/female "hina" dolls is
the ritual god that was hung on the bamboo blind at the building called Sanjo
Den in the court. This is the "Sai-no-Kami" that protects this world at its
frontier with the afterworld. In ancient times, it was believed that misfortunes
came from the afterworld. The custom of ritually having the dead carry away
misfortunes of this world to the afterworld is found in "amagatsu", which
is another archetype of "hina". The "amagatsu" doll, which was used as "katashiro"
for funerals, were transformed into ones used at a child's birth to bear their
misfortunes in life. For boys, they were used until they reach manhood. After
a ceremony to express gratitude, they are burned to ashes and returned to
the ground. For girls, they are brought with them in marriage to the husband's
house and used by them until they give birth to a child. "Amagatsu" are also
referred to as "hoko". After the Girls' Festival gained popularity among aristocrats
and feudal lords in the Edo era (1600 -1868), they began to display them by
using "amagatsu" as male dolls and "hoko" as female dolls.
kyokusui-no-en: A feast held at the imperial court on the first snake day
of March or at the Peach Festival around Nara and Heian eras.