Celebrating Hina-Matsuri and Osekku: Japanese Childrens’ Festivals

New York, N.Y. If you are watching a Japanese TV program on NHK called Don’t be Beaten by Chiko-chan, then the words “Ohina-sama” and “Dairi-sama” are wrong, and “Ohina-sama” means the whole thing of this festival.

That’s right. I have remembered from the time when I was little girl, the prince was right and the princess was left.

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Caring for the all children, “Hina Matsuri” and “Osekku” Festival of Festivals

Songs for Hinamatsuri

  1. Turn on the light
    I will give you flowers
    Five musicians of drums of drums and flutes
    Today is a fun day of Hinamatsuri.
    .
  2. The prince and the princess
    Two people together in  good face
    To Nee who came to the bride
    White faces of  ladies in waiting,
    looking like my sister who married and went away.
    .
  3. The light shines on the gold bulbbyoubu
    A faint spring breeze
    With A little white sake
    Right Minister of the Red Face.
    .
  4. Change the kimono and obi
    Today I am also in relief dressed up
    Spring’s Yayoi of Good Day
    Happily the Hina-matsuri – the girls’ day festival

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In the old days, we cut human shape in white paper and let them float away into the river to get rid of evil. It was for the newborn girl to transfer the evilness of the girl to a doll, so that she could be blessed with good marriage, growing up as a healthy, kind and beautiful woman in the sense of amulet and amulet.

We celebrated on April 3rd in the old tradition of Kansai. A big decoration occupied the whole wall of the eight-tatami room reaching almost to the ceiling. The height of the each doll was nearly 50 cm. We children often entered from the back room into the decoration and gleefully played hide-and-seek under the platform.

The Hina-matsuri represents the form of a happy wedding in Heian period. There is a peach snow cave (bobby) at the top of a seven- or eight-tiered altar covered with an amulet-colored red carpets, and on the top,  a prince and a princess are sitting at the top in front of a gold scallop. The next ladders are occupied by the left and right “three women  in waiting” (kannyo) carrying tools still the same as those used for the special Sake, for modern wedding ceremony.

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Momo (peach trees) are thought to free any  evil spirit. The right and left ministers, who have bows and arrows, play the role of knights who protects the bad guys from getting close. Below that is a music group that encourages five sons to grow up to be a healthy child. The three under him are crying, laughing and angry faces. It is filled with a desire to grow up as an expressive child. And below that, there were a lots of  dishes, games, and there were sake, rhombus three-colored chopsticks, and many other festive presents. And furniture,and vehicles of the bride to bring to the wedding were also displayed.

In my childhood, such celebrations are prepared by my family. But now a days, there may not be a house to do such a large scale Girls’ Day Festivals. On this day, the girls wear their best clothes and call their friends to have sweet sake, zoster and Oshiruko. A round dumpling in the shape of a snow cake, a black bean like New Year’s Day, it makes for a wonderful party, but only for the children.

This time, I brought back a cake for my granddaughter, “Ryo-chan,” from the shop of Asakusa in Tokyo. But in old Kyoto and Kanto, the positions of Princess and Prince were reversed from right to left.

Carp streamer, Japan

“Hina-matsuri” and “Osekku” Festival are for children. On May 5th, we celebrate boys, by saying, “The New Year’s Festival” for boys. At that time, a lot of Samurai dolls are placed on the blue carpet (instead of red carpet) displayed. Armor, swords, long bows and arrows, and samurai were displayed at home.

Boys are treated with a food called chimaki, a sweet roll of omochi (rice cake) rolled up in the large sasa leaf. And in the garden, high on the sky, the streamer of koi fish is blown swimming with the wind. According to the number of  the boys in the household, the number of fishes will float into the sky. Koi (Carp) is said to be the strongest fish swimming against the stream of rivers. So, the boys will grow strong! After this festival of Sekku, people plant rice seedlings.

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These festivals were really for the children only. Everyone dressed up in their best party clothes and were the leaders, and main characters.

This is only in Japan. And only for children only. I don’t know of such  festival only for the Children in the world,  It is really nice to think that in Japan, there is such a custom that adults would do everything and anything  for children in earnest. They also make food specially for these festivals and enjoyed celebrating with everyone for children to grow healthy and strong, and live peacefully

In any case, I am sad because these days of this kind of practice for children are getting lost. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to decorate at least the inner back and the princess and explain to the children the old days of Japan.

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Originally published as Vol. 55 in Weekly Biz, March 23, 2019; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz

(ニューヨークビズ!)

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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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