Hina Matsuri – The Take-Down

The Complete Hina Matsuri Display at the Nishimachi International School

The Complete Hina Matsuri Display at the Nishimachi International School

Every February, many families and public places across Japan erect elaborate displays of the Emperor’s court in honor of Hina Matsuri, or Girls’ Day – celebrated on March 3rd.  These displays, which originated in the Heian Period (794-1185 AD) in Japan’s history, are often multi-tiered and intricate representations of the entire court, from the traditional 5 musicians, to the

Some other intricacies of the display, which at Nishimachi is nearly 100 years old.

Some other intricacies of the display, which at Nishimachi is nearly 100 years old.

tiny little representations of the royal table complete with festival treats such as Hina Arare (sweet little rice crackers) or chirashizushi (mixed fish over rice).

Members of the royal court

Members of the royal court

Though the displays can be enjoyed across the country for most of the month of February, it is imperative that they all be taken down by March 4th, or the superstition says that the girls of the house will marry late, or won’t marry well, or something of that nature.  Taking all of the intricate little pieces down and putting them away in the proper boxes for storage for a year is quite a feat.  Every little hat has to be wrapped; each doll perfectly preserved, and every bit of teensy tableware stored.  It’s quite an undertaking.  Just when you think you have everything wrapped, then all the small boxes have to be put neatly in bigger boxes for storage – don’t forget that space is at a major premium in Japan, so everything has to be as compact as possible.

Here are a few photos of the disassembling of the Hina Matsuri display yesterday at the Nishimachi International School.

Intricate packing of each little piece.

Intricate packing of each little piece.

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The puzzle of fitting little boxes into one big one!

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The whole stand has to come down and be put away.

Every little hat and sword and accessory from the display gets wrapped with the utmost care!

Every little hat and sword and accessory from the display gets put away carefully!

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The little things they use to protect the dolls from bugs for a year.

The little things they use to protect the dolls from bugs for a year.

Ready for storage until February 2014!

Ready for storage until February 2014!

 

The Beauty of Japanese Textiles

2013-02-22 21.51.32In the days of ancient Tokyo, all the way through the 1950’s, kimono dying factories lined the banks of the Myoshoji River in the areas of Nakai and Ochiai.   Yearly since 2009 the residents of these parts of the city have commemorated the rich history by creating a gallery of Kimono cloth and noren, stringing beautifully painted cloth along the river and throughout the streets. Noren are the cloths that hang outside of businesses in Japan in front of the entry doors.  Shopkeepers and restaurant owners put them out at the start of the business day and pull them in when the day is done. Calling the festival Some-no-Komichi, in addition to just showing beautifully dyed and painted cloth, the city opens the gym of the local elementary school to let people dye or paint their own cloths.  The gym is also a gallery of stunningly painted kimono and obi with descriptions of the artists and their techniques.  With the bright sunshine and lovely breeze leafing through the cloth, we could feel the echos of ancient times as we wandered the streets of Nakai. Enjoy the photos from the day.

The dyed cloth strung along the river

The dyed cloth strung along the river

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A description of the dying processes

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More cloth along the river

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One of the 90 or so noren we saw in shop windows in the city.

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Another example of a hand-painted noren

This man is a local artist; he is carving a woodblock to make woodblock prints.

This man is a local artist; he is carving a block of wood to make woodblock prints.

Celebrating a Holiday in Japan

matsuri picMonday was a Japanese holiday – Foundation Day, where the Japanese celebrate the monarchy and ascension of Emperor Jimmu, but according to my dear friend Ms. Miki Hathaway, it’s also the day General MacArthur approved the draft of the modern constitution in 1946.  Lots to celebrate, and the Japanese don’t shy away from celebration.

One of my favorite Japanese ways to celebrate is with the Mikoshi, or portable shrines, which they carry through the streets while dressed in traditional garb. This video was taken in Omotesando, widely regarded as the Champs Elysee of Tokyo with it’s wide, tree-lined street and excellent shopping.  The shrines paraded one after the other, making their slow bouncing progress, for more than an hour. Here is a brief video of the parade of Mikoshi.  Enjoy the Japanese way of celebrating a special holiday!

Another New Year Celebration in Japan

shishimai2The Japanese really know how to celebrate a new year.  In addition to the traditions of going to the shrine, eating soba, and pounding rice, there’s Shishi-Mai, or the Lion Dance.  The Lion dances around to the beat of drums and the tune of flutes. As it dances, people can put money in its mouth for good luck.  Because most Shishi-mae troupes originate from a shrine, all money goes to support the shrine.  The Japanese lion consists of a wooden, lacquered head called a “shishi-gashira” (Lion Head), and a characteristic body of green dyed cloth with white designs.  One family at my daughter’s school sponsored a shishi-mai demonstration at the International School the children attend.  It was quite a treat to watch.shishimai1shishimai5