A giant wooden penis.

Japanese holidays and festivals in March

Japanese festivities during March

Like every country, Japan has its own days and festivals to celebrate. In this article, Inari will tell you more about the Japanese holidays and festivals that take place during the month of March. In this month, you will see dolls, giant penisses and much more.

Doll’s Day or Hinamatsuri (雛祭り)

The first Japanese festival to take place in March is Doll’s Day or Hinamatsuri, a festival that is celebrated on the 3rd of March. Hinamatsuri originated in the Heian-period (794 – 1185 CE) when the dolls were used to contain bad spirits. Japanese traditions tell us that after displaying the dolls for a couple of weeks, the dolls were set afloat and sent down to the sea to get rid of the bad spirits. The problem of fishermen finding these dolls in their nets changed this custom and made people bring their dolls to the temples where they were burned collectively. In modern days, this Japanese festival has changed completely. Nowadays the festival is celebrated in houses of families that have daughters by displaying dolls in a Heian Court setting. The people also drink shirozake which is an alcoholic drink made from fermented rice and eat hina-arare, small colourful crackers, and hishimochi, colourful diamond shaped ricecakes.

Hina-arare!

Hina-arare!

The display has different tiers and each tier has its own set of dolls or miniature items. The first tier consists of the Emperor and the Empress, also called the Imperial dolls, and they are placed in front of a gold folding screen. The next tier is the special place for three courtladies who each are holding sake equipment. In between the courtladies are typical miniature tables with fake Japanese delicacies on top. The dolls on the third tier are musicians and each one except the singer has an instrument. Three have their own varying size of drums, one has a flute, and the other one is the singer. The fourth tier is for the two ministers, the Minister of the Right and the Minister of the Left. In between them are again miniature tables with either bowls or ricecakes. The last tier with dolls is reserved for the three helpers or samurai that are used to guard the Imperial pair. Each one has a face resembling the amount of sake they have drunk. The following two tiers are for imperial furniture at the palace and when away from home.

Japanese display hinamatsuri

A typical Japanese display for Hinamatsuri.

Harvest Festival or Hōnen Matsuri (豊年祭)

The next Japanese festival takes place on the 15th of March. The Harvest Festival, or Hōnen Matsuri, is a fertility festival to celebrate a good harvest and all forms of fertility and wealth. The main celebration consists out of Shinto priests playing instruments, all-you-can-drink sake and a parade that revolves around a 280 kg and 2.5 meter long wooden penis. People come together at 10 a.m. at the last shrine to drink sake and eat mostly penis-shaped snacks. At 2 p.m. they march towards the first shrine and start carrying the wooden penis to its destination. After arriving at the final shrine, they spin the wooden penis around and finally place it on its resting place. Afterwards the participants are showered with small ricecakes and at around 4.30 p.m. the celebration is concluded. If you want to experience this amazing festival, we recommend you to go to the City of Komaki, close to Nagoya.

A giant wooden penis.

A giant wooden penis.

A typical snack on Harvest Festival!

A typical snack on Harvest Festival!

Vernal Equinox Day or Shunbun no Hi (春分の日)

The final holiday takes place around the 20th or the 21st of March and originally was all about paying respect to the past Emperors and the Imperial family. After the Second World War this rather Shintoistic custom was changed into the Vernal Equinox Day in an attempt to separate state and religion. Nowadays this Japanese festival is mostly about praying for good harvest in the spring. People also visit the graves of lost ones and bring flowers. There is of course an alternative holiday at the beginning of autumn to celebrate the good harvest and to thank the world for it.

Flowers on the Vernal Equinox Day

Flowers on the Vernal Equinox Day

These are the most important Japanese holidays and festivals that take place in March. If you want to know more about this subject, feel free to contact us or write a comment.

We’ll be back next month to tell you more about the Japanese holidays and festivals that take place during April.

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