On March 3rd Japanese families with daughters will celebrate Girl’s Day or Doll Festival as Hinamatsuri is also known. The tradition seems to originate from China over a thousand years ago but at some point transferred to Japan, where it is still celebrated. Most of the traditions center around the display of dolls that a girl has for this occasion. It is a five to seven layer tieredstructure that is set up in a prominent room of the house. These displays are normally quite elaborate and can be very expensive, but today there are small and less expensive sets for those with a smaller income or who live in an apartment. At the top most tier of the stand sits the dolls that represent the Emperor and Empress with the remaining tiers holding the servants of the court. All the dolls are dressed in very traditional clothing. The displays are set up a few weeks prior to the 3rd of March and taken down very soon after that date, less bad luck or nightmares befall the girls to who the set belongs. Today the sets are taken down to prevent a late marriage for the girl.
Also on this day, late in the afternoon, people would make a doll out of paper to put all the evil spirits into, sickness and ill health. They would then put these in a boat and send them down river to take the evil with it, allowing the person to cleans themselves. This tradition has changed slightly in today’s time. The boats are often collected after the people have set them afloat and taken to a temple and burned, still to cause the spirits to leave the person but allowing the boats and dolls not to be caught in fisherman’s nets. I found one reference to boat even being made out of fish food making it very environmentally friendly.
The traditional drink of the celebration was amazake a non-alcoholic sake and arare a cracker favored with soy sauce.