- Hina Matsuri
Every year on 3rd March, the Japanese celebrate the Hina Matsuri or the Doll Festival. Also known as the girls’ day, people all over Japan pray for the health happiness and prosperity of the girls.
This century’s old tradition is based on the belief that dolls could carry away the bad omens, sickness, evil spirits and troubles which could befall on the little ladies. The dolls are displayed in houses, streets, shrines and even stations.
A traditional Hina doll set comprises of 15 dolls arranged in seven tiers on a red carpet or red silk. The dolls are attired in ancient royal costumes. The uppermost tier holds the emperor and the empress. The 2nd one displays three ladies in waiting.
Five musicians are on the third tier. Two ministers occupy the fourth level. The lower levels belong to the retainers and guards. Articles of use such as furniture, utensils etc are also displayed on the lower tiers. After the display, the dolls are released in a river so that they take away with them all the troubles and ailments.
A popular superstition among the Japanese is that if the dolls are displayed for more than three days, the girls will face problems in getting married. Special food like rice cakes and nonalcoholic wine are prepared and served on this festival.
- Hadaka Masturi
Hadaka Masturi when translated in English means “naked festival”. If the word “naked” conjures all sorts of indecent images in your mind then you are in for a big disappointment. The naked festival in Japan has mostly male participants that too in loincloths.
The festival takes place on the third Saturday in February in the Kannon-in Temple located in Saidai-Ji in Japan. It is a kind of a religious festival in which thousands of men dressed to the minimum wrestle with each other in the freezing temperature for a pair of tiny sacred sticks called “Shingi”.
The local men gather in groups in garages. The groups of men consume large amount of Saki (Japanese wine) and jump up and down to keep themselves warm chanting “washoi”. They then jog around the neighborhood and are doused with ice cold water which is supposed to purify them.
Chanting washoi, they proceed towards the main temple. When all of them gather at the shrine, two pieces of Shingi wood are dropped from the temple and men push, shove and trample each other to get to these Shingi. It is believed that anyone who catches the Shingi will be favored by the lady luck for the rest of the year.
Another highlight of this festival is the food stalls and the taiko drumming. This festival is mostly restricted to adult males; but separate events for young men and very rarely for women is also held.