JAPAN: Celebrating the Girls

SN3S1195It’s hard being female.

I think that’s holds true wherever you might find yourself in the world, but perhaps it is especially true here in Japan, where women have to deal with a well-established patriarchy as well as facing pressure from the older women in their lives to stay home, stay quiet, stay under control.

Perhaps it is ironic and surprising to some, to find that in this corner of East Asia, where women are still not allowed into Sumo rings for fear of “contaminating” sacred ground, there is a day set aside to celebrate the girls.

On March 3rd, families rich and poor, pause to pray for the health and happiness of their female children. In Japanese, this day is called Hina Matsuri, which literally translates as “Princess Festival.” Most English sources refer to it as “Girls Day” or “Doll Festival.”

When a female child is born, during her first year the family will purchase an elaborate set of dolls representing the traditional imperial court. No expense is spared, as it is believed the dolls will take her place in the event of natural disaster and will help protect her from sickness. Many families take pride in procuring a seven-level set, complete with the Empress and Emperor in many-layered kimono, the Empress’s attendants, musicians, and various objects found in the royal court. For others, space is a factor, but not to worry! Three tier sets and one tier sets are also popular. (more…)

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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