The picture above is a doll set from a family who has daughters and is on display during Hina Matsuri every year. Hina Matsuri started during the Heian period (about 1000 years ago) and is celebrated on March 3rd (“Joshi” from the luna calendar) of every year. At the time, people made dolls out of paper, soil, and straw hoping that, these dolls are a substitution for their disease and mishaps, and because of this, they set them afloat down a river or out to sea.
Also during the Heian period, upper class girls would play with intricately made dolls (Hiina) and the custom of making dolls and Hiina-asobi (playing with dolls) merged together to create today’s custom of displaying dolls on March 3rd.
Hina dolls reproduce gorgeous, detailed clothes from the Imperial Court. There are a variety of ways to display Hina dolls as is shown in the pictures above. A “Shinno” display has both, mebina (females) and obina (males). A “Sandan” display has a prince and princess, three court ladies, and five court musician dolls. A “Godan” display adds more dolls to the “Sandan” display and usually consists of other attendees of the court and unpaid workers (Jicho) of the court, for a total of 15 dolls.
The basic set is the “Godan” display. Each doll has its own occupation, and the way they line up on the stand is predetermined.
The Two dolls sitting in the first tier are the prince and princess, or emperor and empress. These Shinno dolls dressed in gorgeous kimonos sitting in front of gold-leaf folding screens are magnificent.
On the second tier, there are three court women holding sweet white sake. The two women on sides are in a standing position and only the lady in the middle has no eyebrows, showing that she is married.
The dolls standing on the third tier are the five court musicians. They are the Japanese Orchestra that plays Noh’s Ohayashi. From right to left they are as follows: the singer, the flute, the small hand drum, large hand drum, and the small drum.
On the 4th tier, there are the attendees. On the right side is the minister of the left, who presides over intelligence. On the left side is the minister of right who is physically powerful over the left. These two ministers are divided by scholarship and the martial arts, both of them having arrows on their backs.
On the last tier, there are the Jicho (unpaid workers). They take care of a variety of things for prince and princess. From right to left, one with an umbrella, one with a stand for removing shoes, and one with a “daigasa” (a kind of umbrella with a hat). They respectively have angry, merry, and sad faces, so they are sometimes collectively called “Sannin Jyogo.”
It’s hard to understand the order of their positions.
You might want to keep gazing at these beautiful Hina dolls, but they are unavailable after March 3rd. If you display them too early or put them away too early, it means your daughter will marry too early. The theory came from the parent’s wishes that the daughter will have a good marriage in the future.
Hina dolls are Japan’s specialty, so please bring them back to your own country as souvenirs. I wish for your daughter’s health and happy marriage.