Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival in Japan is on March 3rd

In Japan, on March 3rd, Hina Matsuri, people pray for their daughters’ future happiness, health and growth.

Hina means doll and matsuri means festival, so Hina Matsuri is literally Doll Festival. It’s also Girls’ Day. Yet another name for the day is Momo no Sekku meaning Peach Blossom Festival, because this is around the time the peach blossoms bloom. Peach blossoms also are a symbol for a happy marriage.

The hina used for this festival are called hina ningyo. These are a set of dolls that are handed down from generation to generation which are only taken out for this festival. The hina ningyo are displayed on a special stand that has tiers which are covered in red cloth. The two most important hina are the Emperor and Empress. They sit on the top tier. On the second tier are 3 ladies in waiting. On the third tier sit 5 male musicians. One plays a drum, one plays a flute and the third is a singer. The fourth tier has 2 ministers, followed by 3 servants on the fifth tier. The sets have up to 15 dolls, but not all families have the whole set. Many will just have a couple of dolls, often a man and a lady on one tier. Others will use paper dolls.

Photo of Hina Ningyo

The tradition of displaying dolls for Hina Matsuri dates back to the Edo or Tokugawa Period, which was from about 1600 to 1867. It comes from an old custom in China to float paper dolls down the river to take away evil spirits. This is still practiced in some places in Japan and is called Hina Nagashi Matsuri or Floating Dolls Festival. The girls will place two paper dolls in a boat made of wood or straw with rice cakes to take away bad luck, illness and misfortune. In some places they will float paper dolls down the river without a little boat.

Girls dress up specially on this day in their best kimonos. Some girls will dress up like the dolls and have little parties. They will serve hishi mochi which are diamond-shaped rice cakes with three to five layers. They also serve a mild sweet white saki called shirozake.

There’s an old traditional song that’s sung for the Festival. Here it is in transliterated Japanese, and with a loose English translation…

Hina Matsuri Song

Transliterated Japanese

Akari o tsukema sho bon bori ni
O hana o agemasyo momo no hana
Gonin – bayashi no fue daiko
Kyoo wa tanoshii Hina Matsuri

Loose English Translation

Let’s light the lanterns on the tiered stand
Let’s put peach blossoms on the tiered stand
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums
Today is a happy Dolls’ Festival.

Japanese Text for the Hina Matsuri Song

Japanese Text for the Hina Matsuri Song

MP3 of the Hina Matsuri Song

Please see the comments below this post for the other three verses to the Hina Matsuri Song, in Japanese text only.

Here’s another version of the Hina Matsuri Song.

Right after the festival, the dolls are supposed to be put away. If not, it’s thought that the daughter will be slow to marry.

Happy Hina Matsuri!


You can read more about the Origin of Hina Matsuri and Hina Nagashi Matsuri in a later blog post.

You can visit the Mama Lisa’s World Hina Matsuri Song Page for sheet music for this song.

Many thanks to Sakura and Hatsami for singing the Hina Matsuri Song and to Peter Galante of Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com for allowing us to use this wonderful recording! The recording is from their podcast about the Hina Matsuri Festival (it’s mainly in English).

Many thanks to Devon of Head, Shoulders, Knees and all that and Ayako Egawa for bringing this festival to my attention, and to Devon for sending me the Japanese text.

Check out Origami Instructions to make Hina Dolls

Come visit the Mama Lisa’s World Japan Page for more Japanese Songs with their English translations.

This article was posted on Thursday, March 2nd, 2006 at 4:54 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Hina Matsuri - Doll Festival - Girls' Day, Hina Matsuri Song, Hina Nagashi Matsuri - Floating Dolls Festival, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Japan, Japanese, Japanese Kids Songs, Languages, Momo no Sekku - Peach Blossom Festival. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival in Japan is on March 3rd”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Devon, who sent me the Japanese text in the entry, wrote me…

    Actually, there are four verses to the “Hina Matsuri Song”, but I think the other 3 are kind of like the extra verses of “Mary Had Little Lamb”… most people don’t know them.

    Here are the other three verses…

    Japanese Text for the Hina Matsuri Song

  2. Emi Says:

    Could someone translate the last 3 verses of this song. I love this song so much but can’t read all the japanese characters.

  3. aospd ansdop Says:

    put it in an online translator!

  4. Lisa Says:

    The 4 verses above aren’t in computerized text – it’s a graphic. So you can’t use an online translator, unless someone provides the Japanese text in computerized form.

  5. Monique Says:

    Online translators have limits! Here are the results of two online translators for the first verse of “Sakura”. Even if someone’s very smart and uses his/her head, I doubt that s/he can put that into proper English if s/he doesn’t know anything about Japanese unless s/he goes to Wiki Sakura page to pick the correct translation.

    1- If you look around the cherry tree cherry tree and it is good the sky, now then the haze or the cloud it smells and comes out and is sly now then and in seeing the ゆ can

    2- If the Sakura Sakura and it is good as for the ?? and others you see and transfer now then the haze like this it smells and is and is sly now then and in seeing the ゆ can

  6. Lisa Says:

    Here’s the computerized Japanese text to the whole song…

    I believe the name of it is うれしいひなまつり, meaning Happy Girls’ Festival. Can anyone confirm that is the name?

    あかりをつけましょ ぼんぼりに
       お花をあげましょ 桃の花
       五人ばやしの 笛太鼓
       今日はたのしい ひな祭り

    お内裏様(ダイリサマ)と おひな様
       二人ならんで すまし顔
       お嫁にいらした ねえさまに
       よく似た官女(カンジョ)の 白い顔

    金のびょうぶに うつる灯(ヒ)を
       かすかにゆする 春の風
       すこし白酒(シロザケ) めされたか
       赤いお顔の 右大臣(ウダイジン)

    着物をきかえて 帯しめて
       今日はわたしも はれ姿
       春のやよいの このよき日
       なによりうれしい ひな祭り 

  7. bethachel Says:

    amazing site it rocks

  8. Dolls Festival in Japan | Mama Lisa's World Blog Says:

    […] Egawa wrote to me from Japan about Dolls Festival.  It’s called Hina Matsuri in Japan… Hi Lisa, March 3rd is the Doll Festival […]

  9. Pam Says:

    Can you send me the instructions for the hina dolls (origami)
    The original website/link is no longer working.
    Thank you in advance.

  10. Lisa Says:

    I changed the link above to one that works Pam!

  11. Lisa Says:

    Here’s a video showing how to make origami hina dolls:

Leave a Reply