Friday, March 18, 2011

Hina-matsuri and tachibina

The 10th anniversary of the shop fell on the 3rd March this year which coincidentally is also Girls' Day or Hina Matsuri in Japan. So to celebrate we invited our regular customers to come and see  my daughter Ayame's Hina Ningyo doll display. We don't put the dolls out very often as we just don't have enough  space  - so it was lovely to have them out to enjoy again. The display isn't old - it was a special gift to Ayame on her first Girl's Day from a very dear friend when we still lived in Japan.

Hina-matsuri in its present form only developed in the Edo period (1600-1868). This display is a typical 15 doll  set. At the top are the Lord and Lady of the court, then three ladies in waiting, five musicians, the Minister of the Left and the Minister of the Right,  three footmen and the Lady's household items.

The traditions and meanings associated with Hina matsuri have changed over time. It's origins have been traced back to Chinese purification rites and in pre-Edo times it was a purification ceremony associated with the emperor in which dolls used throughout the year were set out to sea on little boats. There is a strong tradition in Japan of using dolls as talismans which absorb evil or illness and are then destroyed.  Similarly in another ancient hina tradition paper dolls called nademono or 'rubbing things' were rubbed on the body to absorb evil and then destroyed. 

Another form of hina doll called tachibina  or 'standing hina' evolved from the nademono. These were also originally made from paper  and later fabric. They were popular by at least  the early 16th century when there were specialist makers in Kyoto.  Tachibina were placed on trays of offerings during the festival  to attract  kami (Shinto gods) into the house where they would inhabit the dolls and offer protection and purification.  Here are some tachibina from my collection which we also displayed as part of our celebrations. These probably date from the 19th - early 20th century:

For more information on various Hina dolls and traditions have a look at Alan Scott Pate's 'Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll' (Tuttle, 2005).

1 comment:

  1. Jan told me about this and I thought, "Oh yeah, dolls...interesting, but dolls neverthless" BUT it was quite amazing, and these are not just dolls, they have special significance as Jan has explained above. Thanks Jan for sharing this with everyone.