March 6th, 2007


Hina Matsuri

kung_fu_monkey has already posted about the Doll Festival here, but I will add a few things.

It was at a Methodist church that is clearly a Christian church, but done all in Japanese architectural style, which is pretty cool. I sort of thought that maybe the festival was a new thing, but no, this was #57, so Simpson United Methodist has been an important element in Denver's Japanese community for quite some time.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but what I got was coolness. There were vendors selling all kinds of hand-made trinkets, and an ikebana exhibit, and paintings, but the big attraction was the dolls. There was a little old Japanese man who told us all about it -- at length -- until eventually, when he had gotten through most of what he had to say, a woman came up and said, "Mr. Suzuki, your wife is waiting for you to come have lunch. Let's go. Now." And that was good, because I think he probably would have sat there telling us all kinds of interesting things about Japanese culture until he keeled over from exhaustion.

I'm probably getting several bits wrong, but: Doll Festival is one of five Japanese holidays on 1/1, 3/3, 5/5, 7/7, and 9/9. (They're a little earlier in the year now that Japan has switched from the lunar calendar to the Gregorian calendar.) It's also known as Girl's Day, and the deal is that there's this particular set of dolls that you put on display only for a few days right around the festival, sort of like a nativity set. They commemorate something the Emperor did once, I think, but he never told us what. Anyway, it's a set of fifteen dolls: Emperor and Empress, three court ladies, five musicians, two advisors, and three servants. They all get set out on a seven- or nine-tiered platform (along with a bunch of accessories, like a palanquin and an ox-cart), and after you've admired them for a while, you get to eat cookies.

Anyway, I learned a bunch of new stuff about Japanese culture and tradition (also: the gray dots you sometimes see on dolls' or movie characters' foreheads are beauty marks, kind of like Marilyn Monroe's mole) and got to see a bunch of nifty artifacts. They had all kinds of dolls, not just the ones for Hina Matsuri.

We had udon, and I had spam roll (sushi rice with grilled spam -- quite tasty, though nobody would believe me), and we watched koto players and dancers and bought origami fish mobiles.

I'm sure we'll be going back again next year.