Girls’ Day in Japan – Traditions and Food

When is Girls’ Day (Hinamatsuri) in Japan? What is it?

Girls’ Day in Japan is on the 3rd of March. It is called Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) or Momo no Sekku (桃の節句) in Japanese. Hinamatsuri means “Doll’s Festival” and Momo no Sekku means “Peach Seasonal Festival”. Hinamatsuri is a day to celebrate the growth and health of girls.

What is the origin of Hinamatsuri?

The origin of the Hinamatsuri is one of the seasonal events in China. During this seasonal festival, It is said that the quality of threatening evil (邪気) can easily enter one’s body, in China it was a custom to cleanse yourself in the river to get rid of the evil quality.

In Japan, although people do not enter the river directly, the custom of stroking a doll made of paper to transfer their injuries and letting it flow into the river has become widespread. This custom is called Nagashi Hina (流しひな).

As the time passed by, the technology developed and fine dolls started to be made. Then, the custom of  flowing paper dolls into the river changed to dolls decorating and has begun to take root as a girl’s event since the Edo period.

Who can celebrate Hinamatsuri?

Families with girls can celebrate Hinamatsuri. There no age limit for decorating Hina dolls. It is okay to continue decorating even after the child has grown up.

How is Hinamatsuri celebrated?

Hina dolls are displayed to celebrate the growth and health of girls. Some families decorate peach blossoms and Hishi mochi  with rape blossoms and tulips. The most enjoyable thing is to have a feast with the whole family. The food to eat on this day includes chirashizushi, amazake, hina arare, hishi mochi and clam soup.

Hinamatsuri Food

Chirashizushi ちらし寿司

Chirashizushi uses auspicious foods such as shrimp, which symbolizes longevity, lotus root, which is a lucky charm with a clear view, and beans, which means that one can work healthily and diligently. It is a standard food at the Hinamatsuri, where you can enjoy gorgeous colors.

Amazake 甘酒

There is a theory that white liquor can be used to wash away the dirt, harm, evil influences and bring longevity.

There are actually two types of drinks for Hinamatsuri, which are shirozake 白酒 (white liquor) and amazake 甘酒 (sweet liquor). Shirozake is made by mixing glutinous rice with mirin (condiment used in Japanese cooking that contains low alcohol) or shochu (Japanese alcoholic beverage that contains less than 45% alcohol). It contains about 9% alcohol. Amazake is either low-alcohol or alcohol-free. Young children are not allowed to drink alcohol, so they drink alcohol-free amazake.

Hina Arare ひなあられ

Hina arare is a bite-sized Japanese cracker made from glutinous rice that comes in four colours (peach, green, yellow, and white) which represents the four seasons. Hina arare symbolizes the happiness of daughter throughout the year. It may also be composed of three colours (white, green, and peach) which white represents snowy land white, green represents breath of trees and peach represents blood and life.

Hishi Mochi 菱餅

Hishi mochi is a three-layered (pink, white and green) cake in a rhombus shape. There are various theories about the meaning of colours, but it is said that peach means good luck, white means clean, and green means health and longevity.

The rhombus is said to represent the heart and is a symbol of life. Hishi mochi is like Hina-arare and Hina dolls, it is a wish from the parents for the health of their children.

Clam Soup はまぐりのお吸い物

Clam soup is also a typical menu item in Hinamatsuri meal. Clams, which are bivalves, fit perfectly with the shells that are originally paired. For this reason, it has been regarded as a symbol to wish for a close couple for the daughter and her husband in the future.

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