Happy Girls’ Day

Three sets of emperor and empress dolls — Ouchi ningyō from Yamaguchi prefecture. My very simple home display.

Today, March 3, is known as Girls’ Day in Japan and referred to as Hinamatsuri, or Dolls Festival, for the elaborate, multi-tiered displays of dolls that are set out at this time of year in the homes of girls.

But beware! Superstition holds that families who leave their dolls out past Girls’ Day could end up causing their daughters’ marriages to be delayed.

When I lived in Japan as a newly divorced (and a bit feisty) young woman, the idea of Girls’ Day dismayed me, being centered on marriage, as if that was all a little girl should look forward to. Even the day’s traditional soup, ushiojiru, was marriage-focused, made with little clams, their perfectly fitting bivalve shells said to represent compatible couples. These were quiet celebrations, inside the house, hastily put away afterward.

In contrast, May 5 would bring what was traditionally Boys’ Day, when homes with sons would fly giant carp banners from the rooftops — despite the holiday being officially renamed Children’s Day in 1948. It seemed to me that the presence of sons was broadcast to the wide world, while daughters were kept like secrets. Harumph.

Was it then or was it earlier, when I was studying in India and observing girls facing other challenges, that the idea lodged in my mind that I would adopt a little girl and make it my mission to ensure that she knew the world could be her oyster?

Whenever it was, these feelings catalyzed what led to my parenting journey, which took a decidedly different path. (Per usual, as discussed last week in “Those best-laid plans.”)

For more information on Hinamatsuri and to see a spectacular traditional display, check out this page from Japan Info.

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5 thoughts on “Happy Girls’ Day

  1. I shared this with my granddaughter who loves all things – Japan. It was a delightful way to connect with her. You made our day!

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