Today March the 3rd, the Hina Matsuri or Japanese Girls Festival was celebrated at Shimogamo Jinja, a temple in Kyoto from the 7th century, where a few hundreds of visitors –mainly housewives and retired people because it’s Wednesday- gathered at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shinto temple to attend the old ritual of throwing dolls to the river. They are supposed to contain bad spirits and, letting them sail the Kamo River, they get them expelled from the young girls forever. Not only that, but the tradition also explains that if the Heian-era dolls are kept by the girls for too long, they won’t get married in their adulthood. Well, only two short comments about this colourful festival so close in time –only one month- to the coming and so much expected Hanami or Cherry Blossom Festival that many times is not properly taken into account.
First, it’s unavoidable to find certain similarities with other cultures’ rituals, as for the giving the dolls supernatural powers, like in the Afro-Caribbean voodoo –in the Japanese case, it would be a purification more than a mortification-; or for the expressing thanks for the liberation of bad spirits or diseases, like in the case of the Catholic ex-votos, which represent miraculous cures by Christian God.
Second (and sorry for the sarcasm), as for the absolute necessity of throwing away dolls to start becoming young women –it’s a symbol, of course- and be able to marry, I think that nowadays, many Japanese women have forgotten about all this and want to be little girls for ever and ever; sure, that must be why this festival has been sent into oblivion. Examples: the kawaii thing, the huge dolls attached to their cell-phones, their Lolita outfits and their teenage ways no matter how many decades ago they have finished high school, their high-pitched tone…and so on. Or maybe I’m wrong, and that’s exactly the only way they can get married, throwing away the shadow of a scary obasanness and showing men how innocent and pure they are. In that case, we should ask the Japanese men about it, don’t you think so?
Coming back to the festival topic, in March’s issue of Hiragana Times, some Japanese people complain about the lack of interest in the Hina Matsuri and the Heian dolls platforms by today’s little girls, and they propose to mix the tradition with Barbie and Rika Chan. Well, Kyoto authorities have done something in that direction, because they have included the Kyoto Tower-人形 character in the ceremony! Impossible to mix more tradition and modernity, a little bit 似合わないけどね。
Anyway, two videos to enjoy this interesting Japanese tradition:
Video 1 and Video 2