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.

The dolls are delivered and set up on an auspicious day, where they will be oooh-ed and aaah-ed over (but should not be touched!) until the 3rd of March. On that day, grocery stores will be stocked with supplies for preparing chirashi-zushi (sushi served in a bowl,) broth soup with brightly colored, edible ball-shaped pieces of processed fish or flour, and pink and green mochi (sticky rice) confections filled with sweet bean paste. Of course, modern girls also have more modern tastes, so these days pizza and cake are often found in Hina Matsuri celebrations.

The dolls and all the trappings must be put away as soon as possible after the 3rd. Being slack in this regard will doom your daughter to a late marriage or a life of single woman-hood.

So, in some ways, I guess it is more of the same, old thinking. But, in another way, it is such a great message to the girls to have the whole family coming together to celebrate them! I love to see how my son participates in it as well. I can’t help but wonder if things might be a little different if celebrating the girls was an occasion marked by all the calendars in all the world.

Happy Girls Day to all of the princesses out there, both young and old.

How do you celebrate women in your home? Does the country where you reside do something similar to Japan tradition?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Japan and mom of two, Melanie Oda at Hamakkomommy

The image used in this post is credited to the author


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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