Hinamatsuri: Girls’ Day in Hawaiʻi

What is Hinamatsuri? This doll festival or Girls’ Day is celebrated on March 3 in Japan and Okinawa. Hina are special dolls and matsuri means festival or holiday. The day is dedicated to the health and well-being of girls and celebrates peace, beauty, and happiness.

In Hawaiʻi many Okinawan and Japanese immigrant families still celebrate by displaying dolls, giving gifts, and eating special foods. Girls are given their first doll and may grow a collection. Red cloth, symbolizing peace and prosperity, is used for festivals and as a backdrop for dolls.

Families may prepare ushiojiru (clam soup, as clam shells represent a joined pair), chirashizushi (raw fish and cooked vegetables on rice), shirozake (white sake), amazake (non-alcoholic sake), sakura mochi (rice cakes with salt-pickled cherry leaf or cherry blossoms) or hishi mochi (multi-colored rice cakes) for the day.

This festival has Shinto religious roots based on the return of Spring. During the Heian period (794 to 1185 C.E) people made straw dolls representing negative energy, bad luck, misfortune, and disaster and set them into local rivers to float away.

Girls’ Day doll on a red painted wood base, undated. The doll also features a glass case.
A Japanese girl in a kimono holding a samisen, a three-stringed musical instrument, and a doll on her back, 1906. Handwritten on the postcard: “Wish you a Happy New Year. All well at home Papa on Kauai. Dec. 28, 06 Yours, S.”
Tsuneyo Yamamoto and her daughter Hatsuyo in kimonos, ca. 1913. They were the wife and daughter of Masajiro Yamamoto, a teacher at the Hilo Boarding School in Hilo, Hawaiʻi.
Hinamatsuri or Girls’ Day celebration display or playset, ca. 1930. This Lyman Museum collection includes dolls representing the royal court with imperial dolls at the top, court ladies, musicians, and guardians with bows and arrows, as well as a cherry tree and a peach or orange tree. Along with the furniture in front are diamond shapes representing colored mochi: pink for good health, white for purity, and green for fertility.
An unidentified child with a doll display, ca. 1935. Besides the many traditional Japanese dolls behind the child, a Shirley Temple doll and other toys are on the right side.
Carol and Maxine Imanaka, March 3, 1952. While several contemporary dolls are set on the platform, in the far background are traditional Girls’ Day dolls.