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The Girl’s or Boy’s Festival Kakejiku
Hinamatsuri and Tango-no-sekku
“Hina-matsuri” (The Japanese Doll Festival) is an annual event. It is a seasonal festival to pray for the healthy growth of girls. In Japan, Hina-matsuri used to be observed on March 3, of the old calendar (around present-day April). It was on the first day of March ,the Snake month, according to the Japanese lunar-solar calendar. However, after the calendar reform of January 1, 1873, the festival has generally been celebrated on March 3, according to the Gregorian calendar (or new calendar). However, in some parts of Japan, mainly snowy regions such as the “Touhoku” region, Hina-matsuri is still observed on March 3rd of the old calendar. There are other regions that celebrate the festival on April 3rd, in line with the new calendar. Hina-matsuri was also named “Momo-no-(peach’s) sekku” because the festival, under the old calendar, was held when peach trees blossomed.
Hina-matsuri is a seasonal festival in which dolls are displayed, and centering around two dolls representing the emperor, called “obina,” and the empress, called “mebina.” The display is decorated with peach flowers, and people enjoy eating, and drinking “shirozake” (sweet white sake).
During the Edo period, the girls’ “doll play” was combined with the “ceremony of the seasonal festival.” Hina-matsuri spread across the country, and dolls began to be displayed. During this period, however, in addition to the traditional aspects of the doll display, Hina-matsuri increasingly came to have a ritualistic aspect, in which the dolls suffer all of the present and future misfortunes, in the place of people. Also at this time, the Hina-matsuri doll set came to be considered one of the bride’s household articles for high-ranking females, such as the daughters of “samurai” families. As a result, the doll trend became more elegant and luxurious.
A “tachibina” doll is a hina doll in a standing pose. The kakejiku (hanging scroll) of tachibina dolls is sometimes displayed during Hina-matsuri. Moreover, the kakejiku sometimes is displayed instead of the Hina-matsuri doll set.
The Japanese have a custom of holding a variety of events praying for the healthy growth of boys, on the day of Tango-no-sekku, and May 5 is a national holiday, called “Children’s Day.” In a few regions, it is celebrated on June 5th, following the old lunar calendar.
In Japan, there was a ritual called “Satsuki-imi” (literally, accursed May), where all the men went out of the house, and only women stayed inside to wash the impurities away, and purify themselves before rice planting. This custom was connected to “tango,” which came from China. In the Imperial Palace, people wearing a Japanese iris in their hair got together at the “Butokuden” (a palace building) and were granted a “Kusudama” (literally, a ball of medicine made of herbs with a decoration added) by the emperor. A record from the Nara period described these events in the imperial court.
The word for the Japanese iris was pronounced the same as the word for martial spirit (both were pronounced “shoubu”), and the shape of the leaves of the Japanese iris reminds people of swords. Therefore, tango was determined as the “sekku” for boys and people prayed for the healthy growth of boys during the Kamakura period.
The typical way to celebrate tango-no-sekku is to display armor, a helmet, a sword, a doll warrior, or “gogatsu-ningyou” doll (literally, doll of May) modeled after Kintarou (a famous brave boy in a nursery tale) on a tiered stand in a room, and to fly “Koi-nobori” (carp streamers) on a pole in the front yard. Displaying armor symbolizes protecting the boys. The custom of displaying koi-nobori originates in the Chinese tradition, and it is meant to pray for the success in a boy’s life.
The kakejiku which is displayed in this event can be describeds as follows:
The kakejiku of an iris painting.
The kakejiku of a “musha” (an armoured warrior) painting.
The kakejiku of a carp shooting up a waterfall.
It is said in Chinese history that a lot of fish tried to swim up a waterfall called “Ryuumon” in the rapids of the Yellow River, but only the carp succeeded and thus became dragons.
The kakejiku of a tiger or a dragon painting. Their grand strength is believed to wards off evil spirits.