28 February 2024

Hinamatsuri: A Special Day for Girls

The early days of February signal the start of Hinamatsuri celebrations. Hinamatsuri is a seasonal festival that honors the healthy growth and happiness of young girls. To commemorate this tradition, homes are adorned with traditional Hina dolls that bestow an aura of happiness and dignified elegance. 

Learn about this time-honored festive occasion and join us in celebrating one of the most joyful and happiest festivities of the year. 


  • Hinamatsuri
  • Hina Dolls
  • How We Enjoy Hinamatsuri Today 
  • A Special Day for Girls


Hinamatsuri, also known as Momo-no-Sekku (Peach Festival), is a celebratory tradition observed on March 3 to wish for the well-being and happiness of young girls. The custom of celebrating Hinamatsuri originated from Joushi-no-Sekku, one of the five seasonal festivals that was designated in the Edo period (1603 CE - 1868 CE). 

Unlike Children's Day observed on May 5, Hinamatsuri is not a national holiday but is widely celebrated throughout Japan. Happy colors of pink, white and green, which are the symbolic colors of Hinamatsuri, decorate store windows and classrooms at kindergartens and elementary schools. Adorable sets of Hina dolls gracefully dressed in kimonos adorn households. 

Hina Dolls  

Hina dolls express Japan's deep affinity for dolls and represent century-old traditions from ancient times. These iconic dolls have a significant history and give context to how this festival came about.  

Back in the Heian period (794 CE -1185 CE), commoners bestowed their misfortunes upon paper dolls and set them adrift in rivers in hopes of "washing away" afflictions and illnesses. 

At the same time, children of aristocratic families played a game called Hina-asobi also using paper dolls. Eventually, these two separate styles of dolls crossed paths to become the original form of today's Hina dolls.

Following the advancement in doll-making techniques such as kimekomi in the Edo period, dolls retained greater beauty with detailed decorations. Eventually, Hina dolls came to be showcased in households of the general population on Hinamatsuri as "guardian dolls" to protect their young daughters.

Traditionally, a full set includes fifteen dolls and various small accessories such as miniature furniture pieces, folding screens and lamps, and are displayed on a seven-step stand. The ensemble emulates the magnificence and grandeur of an imperial court with the life-like Hina dolls and intricately crafted accessories. 

But following a shift in housing with more people residing in smaller living spaces, Hina dolls took on a more compact stature. Today, a basic set consists of two Hina dolls, an emperor and an empress of the imperial court, placed on a decorative stand with a folding screen.

And Hina dolls now come in various materials such as porcelain, wood, lacquerware, and are petite in size which make them easy to display on smaller shelves and tables. These Kutani ware Hina dolls fit beautifully in various nooks within a home. Their detailed expressions and elaborate kimono patterns showcase Kutani ware's fine artistry. 

Yoneda Yuzan Purple Sakura Kutani Hina Dolls with Mini Tatami Mat

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How We Enjoy Hinamatsuri Today

On March 3, family members gather to rejoice and wish for the well-being of the young girls in the family.


The fun of Hinamatsuri celebrations begins when the Hina dolls are taken out from their boxes and are carefully arranged for show. There is no exact rule on when to get out the Hina dolls, but generally they are set up after Setsubun which is celebrated on February 3. Plum blossom branches usually add to the cheerful atmosphere of the occasion.

Along with the Hina dolls and plum blossoms, households enjoy many other decor ideas with the Hinamatsuri motif. Tableware and paintings designed with Hina dolls are seen on tables and walls around this time of year. 

Tanaka Toubou Hinamatsuri Kyo Ware Matcha Bowl Chawan

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Festive Food

When family members gather on March 3, they enjoy the charming Hina dolls together and eat various festive menus including some of the following dishes. In recent years, bakeries have begun to sell cakes with Hina doll decorations and have become popular desserts.  


This is the main dish served for Hinamatsuri. Colorful and auspicious ingredients including shrimp, lotus roots, thinly cut egg pancakes are arranged beautifully on top of sushi rice.

Clam soup

Accompanying the sushi is clam soup made in a clear broth. When serving this soup, the inner side of the clams is set upwards and clam meat is placed on both sides of the clamshell: this practice symbolizes the wish for a happy marriage of a young girl. 


This is a triple-layered sweet mochi treat that represents new buds sprouting from the winter snow. The red (pink) and green hues ward off evil spirits, and the white symbolizes longevity and was originally made from water caltrop (hishi).
Hishimochi is mainly used as a decorative item placed near the Hina dolls. 

Shirozake (White sake)

Shirozake is a cloudy white alcoholic beverage brewed with steamed rice and malt. It was  originally served at Hinamatsuri during the Edo period. However, due to its alcoholic content, a non-alcoholic version, amazake, is now the preferred choice as it can be enjoyed by people of all ages.


An indispensable sweet treat for Hinamatsuri. A mixture of sugar-coated puffed rice and rice crackers colored in the symbolic colors of Hinamatsuri, Hina-arare enhances the subtle soft hues of other decor items. 

A Special Day for Girls 

Hinamatsuri finds its origin in wishing for the happy and long healthy lives of young girls. It is a time that reminds us of the love we have for our family. And  through Hina dolls, families express their joy in honoring their beloved daughters.

After Hinamatsuri, we pass on the baton to Tango-no-Sekku (Boy's Day) on May 5. Stay tuned for our coming seasonal blog that explores the tradition and customs of this special day.