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Traditions of Hinamatsuri

February 27, 2020

When most people think about the Japanese Girls’ Day holiday (Hinamatsuri, 雛祭り) in Japan, images of elaborate, multi-tiered Girls’ Day doll displays (hinakazari, 雛飾り) often come to mind. The dolls represent the Emperor and Empress of the Heian period with their attendants and court musicians. Traditionally, families set out the hinakazari to pray for the health and prosperity of their daughters.

Observed on the third day of the third month, Girls’ Day began as the Peach Festival (Momo no Sekku). Originally based on a lunar calendar, the Peach Festival coincided with the flowering of the peach blossoms. With Japan’s adoption of the Western (Gregorian) calendar the date was set as March 3rd.

In Japan, families with daughters celebrate Hinamatsuri with foods with symbolic colors of pink (peach blossoms), green (new growth) and white (snow). Many may be familiar with Sakura Mochi; pink, sweet bean filled rice confections wrapped in salted cherry leaves, but did you know about some of the other foods and drinks associated with the holiday?

Colorful chirashi sushi is vinegared sushi rice topped with slices of raw fish, shrimp, chiffonade egg, caviar and vegetables. Ushio-jiru is a clear soup with clams that is often paired with chirashi sushi; the two halves of the clam shell symbolize the joining of two people, a wish for a happy marriage. Rice-filled seasoned tofu, inari sushi is a delicious Girls’ Day finger food.

In addition to sakura mochi, Girls’ Day is a holiday of sweets and snacks. Multi colored hina arare puffed rice balls are a popular crunchy, sweet snack. Usually 3 or 5 on a stick, small, round dango dumplings made from rice flour come topped with sauces or sweet bean pastes. Diamond shaped hishi mochi is a three (sometimes 5) layer confection traditionally included in the Girls’ Day doll display. Many Girls’ Day confections are decorated with salted cherry blossoms that add a splash of color and salty accent.

Shirozake (白酒) is a white alcoholic drink made from rice, koji and distilled alcohol that is enjoyed by adults. Shirozake is sometimes confused with amazake (甘酒), a non-alcoholic drink made from rice and koji, that is served to children during this holiday.

Girls’ Day dolls are on display at our Bellevue, Renton and Beaverton locations. Stop by Uwajimaya today and pick up everything you need to host your own Hinamatsuri party.

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