March 3, 2001


Right now I'm feeling: Not too bad, thanks

Right now I'm listening to: The Brilliant Green

The Brilliant Green --
The Lucky Star   

A huge departure from their usually upbeat and English songs, their new album "Los Angeles" is a great addition to The Brilliant Green's repertoire.

The doors to Kada Shrine

One of the boats

The Lucky Girl: Instrument of the Shinto gods

The Procession down to the dock

The Final Blessing

The Big Goodbye

Hina Matsuri

One thing I'm going to sorely miss about Japan is all the wacky and cool festivals. I didn't get to see this particular festival last year because March 3rd fell on a school day, which I couldn't get off. But this year it's on a Saturday and there's nothing to stop me.

I didn't know this at the time, but apparently a lot of other JETs in the ken had made plans to see this festival, as well as a number of other foreigners I had never seen before. Even with as many foreigners as there was, there were still a ton of Japanese people, mostly older, who seem to never tire of festivals like these.

This festival is held every year on March 3, "Girls' Day", to chase the evil spirits out of girls. Or perhaps to keep evil spirits away from girls... depending on which translation you use or how embittered the Shinto priest is who you happened to ask for the explanation.

There are really two parts to what is now known as "Girls' Day"... the first takes place inside the home with families that have girl children. They invide friends and relatives over, have food and drinks special for the occasion, and wish for the girls' to grow up healthy and beautiful. A little girl's first "Girl's Festival", her grandparents will often give her her first set of "hina" dolls. This set consists of up to 15 very expensive dolls on a display of up to 7 tiers with small furniture and lamps.

Long ago, this was a purification ritual, in which people would rub paper drawings on themselves, in the aim to transfer the impurities to the paper, and toss them into the river. Sometimes noble's daughters would decorate and play with paper dolls and then throw them into the river.

The ceremonies were to take place at two locations: Kada Shrine which is about a 20 minute train ride and then a 20 minute walk away from the center of Wakayama City, and the dock nearby.

At Kada Shrine, year-round they have thousands upon thousands of dolls around and inside the shrine. Surrounding the outside of the shrine they also had thousands of porcelain cats and many stone and wooden phallus objects.

Before the actual ceremonies, they had children from the local elementary schools singing outside the doors to the shrine. Of course, there was a lot of fawning over the little children, partially because they were singing adorably out of synch with eachother, partially because 95% of small Japanese children are (I have to admit it) truly adorable... it's how they outgrow this youthful Japanese-adorability that you've got to watch out for.

A large boat was brought out into which the first dolls were placed in by a little girl dressed in elaborate kimono and several maidens in traditional garb assisting her.

After this opening ceremony, the dolls are piled into several boats and carried down to the docks. It was windy and very, very cold that day. Freezing actually, and it seemed we waited for hours for the small procession of priests and boats which held the festival dolls.

News crews and people with cameras and camcorders were everywhere. We were lucky to have gotten a spot so close to the dock. The news crews donned their golashes and waded around the dock in the water to get a better shot!

The boats were set onto the edge of the dock where the final blessings were made by Shinto priests and the little girl and then they were towed out into the sea.

In ancient times, the dolls were supposed to be gone and forgotten to have the blessings take affect, but I heard that they just tow the boats back after mostly everyone leaves the dock. After that, the dolls are burned in a large bonfire. They don't leave them out in the sea anymore because fisherman drag them up in their nets and that can be a bit of a pain. I toyed with the idea of sticking around to see the bonfire if they'd let me (could've been cool), but it was way too cold.

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