On March 3rd we presented a program to teach about Girls’ Day, the Japanese holiday to bless girls with a happy and healthy life. Girls dressed up in traditional kimonos and posed next to horses for lovely photo keepsakes. The Girls’ Day celebration was brought to Hawai’i by early immigrants who worked in the sugarcane and pineapple fields and continues in homes, schools, and other public places today.
Traditionally when the first daughter is born grandparents give her a kimono and special doll like the 39-year-old doll that was lent to us by the Morikawa family. In mid February the doll is taken out of storage and displayed on a table or altar to bless the girls in the family with a healthy and happy life. The altar may include items like flowers and a fan, and can range from very simple to ornate.
More elaborate altars can have up to seven or more tiers with dolls that signify the Emperor and Empress on the top. The tiers hold dolls in descending order that represent court ladies, politicians, musicians, and helpers or samurai. The bottom tier may hold tiny intricate items such as ox-pulled carriages, work tools, tea ceremony items, and much more! Girls’ Day, or Hinamatsuri, origins trace back to the 8th century Heian period when people made small straw dolls to float down rivers and carry away bad experiences and negative forces in order to protect children. Over the centuries the holiday became the Festival of Dolls, or Girls’ Day. The displays can be seen at businesses and public places like train stations all over Japan for two or three weeks.
And what would a holiday be without food? In old-time Makawao, moms and tutus would make pink mochi (rice cakes) or maybe buy a cake from Komoda Bakery. Traditional Girls’ Day food includes tasty dishes like raw fish and vegetables over rice, sweet and savory crackers, a drink called shirozake, and mochi. We had fun helping the girls dress up and take photos and of course everyone loved Aunty Marilyn’s mochi!