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Hina Matsuri
  Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) takes place on March 3 and celebrates "Girls' Day". This is the day families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful. The celebration takes place both inside the home and at the seashore. Both parts are meant to ward off evil spirits from girls.

A girl's first "Girls' Day" is called her hatzu-zekku. On a girl's hatzu-zekku it is very popular for the girl's granparents to buy her a display like the one at the right. This display can have up to seven tiers with dolls and small furniture. At the top is always the dolls of the emperor and empress with a miniature gilded screen placed behind them, very much like how it is in the imperial court.

Most families take out this display of dolls around mid-February and put it away immediately after Hina Matsuri is over. There is a superstition that says that families slow to put away the dolls will have trouble marrying off their daughters!

The best place to experience Hina Matsuri in Wakayama prefecture is at Kada shrine. It's right by the shore and the priests host the Hina Matsuri there every year.
Before I start describing the festival, I want you to take a look at this beautiful shinto shrine and how it is prepared for the festival.

The entire shrine is surrounded by small ceramic figurines and icons. Thousands of them. They all have their own special meaning, as well. The cats at the left, for example, are a symbol of prosperity and luck and they are commonly seen near the cash registers of stores and restaurants.

Kada shrine is a specialty shrine for this festival,
and as a result has dolls decorating its
exterior interior from all over Japan.

Close up shots of the dolls inside the shrine and lined up around it.


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