Japanese Festivals in March

Hinamatsuri

Emperor and Empress dolls ©hirotomo/Flickr

Japan is a country which has dozens of great festivals. They are eye-catching not only for Japanese people, but for tourists as well. Japanese festivals combine traditional values with local customs. Some of these have their origins in Chinese culture, but by the time they had changed a lot.

It is important to mention March, the third month of the year, if we are talking about Japanese festivals. As every month, it also has some very interesting traditional Japanese festivals. Some of them are celebrated only in some regions of the country, but roughly they are known all around Japan. You will find here the most popular Japanese festivals which are celebrated in March.

Shuni-e

Omizutori

Fire Festival: sparks at a temple ©musumemiyuki/Flickr

Shuni-e is celebrated in the second month of the lunisolar calendar: it falls either in February or in March. This ceremony is held at Japanese Buddhist temples, where the priests carry fire torches on the balconies of the temples. People are gathering in front of the temples and they try to catch the sparks which are falling down from the balcony. It is believed that these sparks keep bad luck away from those who touch them.

This festival is very popular in Nara. Here, the celebrations start on the first day of March and it goes on until March 15. Shuni-e has two very important ceremonies: Otaimatsu (Fire Ceremony) and Omizutori (Water Ceremony).

 

Hinamatsuri

Dolls

Hinamatsuri Dolls ©Conveyor belt sushi/Flickr

Hinamatsuri is celebrated on March 3 and it is also called Doll’s Day. On this day, people usually pray for young girls and their luck. Though it is not a national holiday, it is a very important festival of Japanese culture.

On Hinamatsuri, red-carpeted platforms are used to exhibit different dolls. The top platform displays two dolls, representing the Emperor and the Empress. The lower platforms are occupied by dolls representing court ladies, musicians, ministers and samurai warriors. In some regions, these dolls are put in a boat and they are floated down on a river, taking away negative energies from people.

 

Honen Matsuri

Fertility

Crowd on Honen Matsuri Day ©Yazan Badran/Flickr

It is held on March 15 every year and it celebrates harvesting and fertility. On the parades organized on Honen Matsuri, people pray for a rich harvest. The ceremonies of this festival vary from region to region, but the most popular Honen Matsuri festival is celebrated in Nagoya.

In Nagoya, Shinto priests participate on a parade and they play musical instruments (usually drums). People carry a 280 kg wooden phallus (which represents fertility) from Shinmei Sha Shrine to a hill. When the phallus is taken to the hill, small rice cakes are thrown down from the platforms. Interestingly, sake and phallus-shaped souvenirs are the most typical things of this festival.

Hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri Dolls: Emperor &Empress ©hirotomo/Flickr

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