Japan Traditions and Festivals

The festival of the girls

In Japan there is a girls’ festival that always takes place on the third day of the third month, i.e. on March 3rd. It’s called Hina-Matsuri in Japanese. For this purpose, dolls are placed on a staircase. These dolls are supposed to represent the traditional Japanese court, which is why all dolls wear kimonos. The emperor and empress stand on the top step of the stairs, followed by other figures of the imperial court on the following steps and various furnishings such as furniture etc. These dolls are set up some time before the actual festival. But what is the purpose of these dolls?

They are supposed to drive away the evil spirits. In the past, the dolls were made of paper and placed on small straw rafts in the next river. But nowadays these dolls are made of porcelain and are therefore much more expensive. So some parents let this festival cost a lot of money. Family members, relatives and friends come and celebrate together, eat together and sing. However, there is one thing the girls must not forget: the dolls have to be tidied up again before the next day. Otherwise the girl won’t get a husband, at least that’s what the Japanese believe.

The Children’s Festival – Boys’ Festival – in Japan

Children’s Day is celebrated on May 5th. In the past, this holiday was reserved for boys, at least this day was officially called the “Boys’ Festival”. Today you usually hear the term “children’s party” because girls and boys celebrate it together. In Japanese, this festival is called Kodomo no hi. On this day the children paint carp out of printed cloth and hang them up on a flag. Why carp?

This fish is a symbol of strength, courage and perseverance, as the carp swims against the current. This is reminiscent of the deeds of the samurai, the ancient warriors who are very revered in Japan. And all children should become as heroic, powerful and successful as the samurai. The flags are called Koi Nobori, where Koi means “carp”, and they have different colors. Each father receives a black flag, the mother a red and the son a blue flag.

So the old tradition remains that this festival is dedicated to male children, even if the girls are allowed to participate. It takes a while before a tradition dating back to the 6th century changes.

What is a kimono?

Maybe you’ve seen a kimono before? This is a piece of clothing that has an ancient tradition in Japan, a country located in Asia according to loverists. Nowadays it is mainly worn on festive occasions and traditional celebrations. It looks like a long coat. Both women and men wear kimonos. Kimonos are made of silk or cotton.

Kimonos are not held together by buttons, but a belt at the waist, the obi, holds the kimono together. Women tie the ends of the kimono in a bow. At least that’s how young women do it, with older women the back part looks like a backpack. By the way, putting on a kimono has to be learned. Even today the kimono is considered an important household costume, with us you might then wear a house suit, which of course doesn’t look as chic as a kimono.

Kimonos are often very expensive. They are also quite difficult to put on and take off, this too has to be learned. By the way, you can recognize a married woman by the sleeves of a kimono: The sleeves of her kimono are shorter than those of an unmarried woman or a young girl. They usually wear colorful kimonos with a cheerful pattern.

The more official the occasion for which a kimono is worn, the more complicated the kimono is. Some kimonos are only worn on a special occasion, for example a wedding. It can take several hours to put on traditional Japanese clothing. In everyday life you will come across a kimono less often.

What are tabi?

With a kimono you also wear very special socks called “tabi”. These are ankle high and the toe is severed. So you can wear them in traditional sandals too. By the way, they look like flip-flops, only they are often made of straw.

Do children wear kimono too?

Yes, it already exists. However, we can assume that they do this simply because they like to dress up, and maybe you do that too sometimes. It may just as well be that children put on kimonos, which are neither easy to put on nor particularly comfortable to wear, to please their mothers. There should also be something like that.

Japan Traditions