March 3 in Japan is Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival. It is a day of national celebration of young girls, and a day of prayers for their wellness and continued happiness in life.
Families with little girls make elaborate displays of kimono-clad dolls called Hina-Ningyo. The dolls are believed to be protectors of sorts, carrying away any lingering evil spirits, thus ensuring the happiness of the owner.
In Japan, no celebration is complete without festive dishes, and Hina Matsuri is no exception. The traditional dishes for the day include delicacies such as suchi rice topped with variety of ingredients called Chirashi-zushi (scattered sushi), colorful rice crackers called Hina-arare and diamond-shaped mochi rice cakes.
And for those who wish to complete the celebration by going out, there are restaurants of all sorts with special menus prepared for the day.
Picture to the right is the Hina-Matsuri menu from a local restaurant in a small nearby community called Aya town.
Hina Matsuri traces all the way back to the 8th century Heian period, in which playing with dolls was popular not only among young girls but also women of nobility. In it’s present form, Hina Matsuri has been observed since the early 17th century Edo period.