Beginning February, and ending on March 3rd with Girl’s day, is Hinamatsuri – the Japanese Doll Festival. Japanese homes throughout Japan display elaborate dolls on red carpets depicting the Emperor, Empress and Court Attendants from the Heian period. Unlike the Chistmas tree which some Westerners enjoy dried and brittle in the family room for months past the yule tide season, leaving the hinaningyo up past March 4th brings a late marriage for the potential brides to be in the family. Ouch.
Having heard of this festival before I envisioned two, maybe three, Barbie-ish Japanese models propped stiffly in the foyer, arms reaching, unbending, to incoming visitors wearing nightgown versions of kimono. When I stumbled upon these at the Neiman Marcus of Japan- Mitshukoshi- I had to snap fast before the polite sales ladies dressed in starched black uniforms oh so politely shooed me away, otherwise I would have gotten close-ups of the various members of the royal household seated in formation according to tier. Little did I know at the time that each doll had a seat assignment, the furniture at the bottom wasn’t thrown in at the last-minute just so Grandma had something to give as a gift every year, and the boxes at the bottom were a part of this display and not random additions of lacquered jewelry boxes with no other place to go.
The dolls are placed in front of a screen, on a red carpet. A complete set includes vases, silk lanterns, and peach plants. Each doll goes in a specific place on the 7- layered platform. Emperor and Empress on the first platform. Second Platform contains ladies of court- usually serving sake. The third tier is for musicians. The fourth are for the two ministers- always the older on the left. The fifth platform- contains plants and samurai- who are also portrayed as the maudlin, merry and cantankerous drinkers. (Wikipedia’s words- not mine. But I do like them) The sixth platform has items used inside the palatial residence while the seventh contains items used while traveling. Apparently children were not to be seen or heard in the time of the Heian.
So, let’s meet the Royal Family: The Emperor and Empress. He always has a baton while she holds a fan.
The set below containing the screen, plants, and Emperor and Empress costs about $3,000 US dollars.
Close up of a musician and the older Minister:
The Hinaningyon are passed down through the generations. I’ve found that in many of the celebrations of Japanese culture, bad and evil spirits are cast out in some way. In this celebration, the dolls have the ability to contain bad spirits. In the past, straw replicas of the dolls were set afloat and sent to sea taking bad spirits and troubles along with them. That practice was stopped as they are not as tasty as the sushi they tended to get caught with once out in the open ocean.
And here’s the real thing – Japan does currently have an Emperor and Empress-
His Royal Majesty Emperor Akihito, 125th Direct Lineal Descendant of the Sun Goddess and his wife, Her Royal Majesty Empress Michiko,
A more recent picture:
Spouse has met the Empress- For the life of me I don’t know why he didn’t take pictures with his Iphone- can’t you see it? Holding the phone in front of the two of them while he flashes the peace sign? I don’t know why he didn’t ask one of her security team to snap a few.