What: Doll Festival

When: March 3rd

About: Formerly called "Girl's Day," heirloom dolls are displayed and the future of the daughters in the household are prayed for.

Land of the Rising Sun

Also known as the Doll Festival, Hinamatsuri is a day where families with daughters in the house will set up a display of large red platforms for their collections of dolls in the best room of the house. The dolls represent the Heian court, including the emperor, empress, attendants, musicians, court ladies, and furniture. Feasts are prepared for the dolls on miniature dishes, and food such as kusamochi (rice-cake made with mugwort), hishimochi (diamond-shaped rice-cake), and shirozaki (rice malt and sake) is served. The dolls are displayed for about a week before they are put away until the next year.


Initially, this holiday was a religious holiday that taught girls the roles of women in the home and to pray for their health and growth. Tales such as those of Murasaki Shikibu (a scholar and writer), Empress Jingu who led an invasion of Korea, wives of famous warriors, and the Onna Daigaku (Women’s Great Classics) are taught to girls. The dolls began to be more elaborately dressed during the Heian period and continued into the Edo period.

Hinamatsuri is currently celebrated on March 3rd, though historically it was observed on the third day of the third month of the lunar calendar. It also was once called Hina-asobi (which translates to “playing with dolls”), and it is believed that the holiday may have started between 97 B.C. and 30 B.C. during the reign of Emperor Sujin, as a result of a song or that it was once a court ceremony in 951 A.D. There are speculations drawn from an old verse that lead people to believe that the holiday was once part of the social life for the warrior and not just a women’s festival. Hinamatsuri was formerly called “Girl’s Day” and the fifth of May was called “Boy’s Day,” but this has since changed and the third of March is no longer called “Girl’s Day,” while “Boy’s Day” has become Children’s Day, a festival for both boys and girls.