Wednesday, March 5, 2008


It was the 3rd of March two days ago.

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While it would probably be just another day for most of us, it was something different for the Japanese. On the third day of the third month every year, 雛祭り (Hinamatsuri) or Doll Festival is celebrated here. This is a day families pray for happiness and prosperity of their young girls and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful. It is also called 桃の節句 (Momo-no sekku) or Peach Festival because of the peach blossom season on the old lunar calendar. May 5th is 子供の日 (Kodomo-no hi) or Children's Day, and it is also called Boy's Festival. Children's Day is a national holiday in Japan but on the other hand, Hinamatsuri is not.

So, it seems that sexism can be found in Japan too.

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Also known as Girls' Day, it is during this day that sets of ornamental dolls called 雛人形 (Hina-ningyou) representing the Emperor, Emperess, attendants and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period are displayed on platforms with a red carpet called 日毛氈 (hi-mousen). Most families take out this display of dolls around mid-February and put it away immediately after Hina Matsuri is over.

There is a superstition that says that families slow to put away the dolls will have trouble marrying off their daughters. Interesting.

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The custom of displaying dolls began during the Heian period. Formerly, people believed the dolls possessed the power to contain bad spirits. Hinamatsuri traces its origins to an ancient Japanese custom called 雛流し (hina-nagashi) or literally doll floating, in which straw hina dolls are set afloat on a boat and sent down a river to the sea, supposedly taking troubles or bad spirits with them. The Shimogamo Shrine (part of the Kamo Shrine complex) in Kyoto celebrates the 流し雛 (Nagashibina) by floating these dolls between the Takano and Kamo Rivers to pray for the safety of children.

Also people have stopped doing this now because of fishermen catching the dolls in their nets. They now send them out in to the sea, and when the spectators are gone they take the boats out of the water and bring them back to the temple and burn them.

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Those explained above are the some information about the festival, which I am assume and quite sure that nobody who bother to read it, yet alone make themselves understand it. Anyway, it so happened that I was out shopping two days ago and I dropped by the Nagaoka Civic Centre here. There was one section displaying all the dolls in conjunction with this festival and I took some time to have a look on them. One unique thing about all these dolls is the fact that they are hand-made using materials like cloth, papers and ribbons.

First up was the Emperor and the Emperess.

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Next are his super mega long mistresses.

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Ice-cream wrappers and ice-cream sticks were recycled to make these dolls.

And all his super extra low girlfriends.

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As you might notice it, every single doll above doesn't have the complete set of eyes, nose and ears or in other words, they are all impaired. However, I do come across normal dolls with all five senses. And they are really cute.

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Although some looks normal, others suggest otherwise. Take this Siamese-twins doll for example.

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Here are the rest of the dolls that I managed to capture and bring home.

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A couple in a nest.

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Oversized eggs who sit on a hard paper.

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A sumo wrestler with two candys as his bodyguards in the background.

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Twin bunnies with missing whiskers.

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These are seashells, not dolls.

I was lucky enough to be able to join in the doll making session that was opened for public on that day and guess what I came out with?

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I call my masterpiece, "Two sleeping cylinders".


Anonymous said...

i want...send to Malaysia my door step! hehe i want the dolls that u said u wanna bring back ....

calvin said...

@ kokahkok:
unfortunately for you, they don't provide delivery service until your door steps. i am a good kid. so, i didn't steal and bring those dolls back =)

février said...

i like the fans and lamps near the emperor and empress. so pretty.

and the siamese twins are so cute

and your ... cylindrical masterpiece looks like some warped version of disney... roly poly oly - just - cylindrical... =__=

calvin said...

@ beve:
omg, you watched that disney cartoon too?

cl3m` said...

now u know tht japan's a sexisy country?

calvin said...

@ cl3m:
no matter how sexist they could be, i'm still very sure that the japanese don't have third-world mentality of making fun of women's menstrual cycle in the parliment >.<