March has just started and Japan is already impatiently waiting for the event of national importance – Sakura (cherry blossom) season. You suddenly notice that decorations in the shopping malls are changed to blooming Sakura trees, dessert displays feature Sakura flavors or at least light pink colors. Even the White day does not get its space on the shelves, nothing even distantly close to its counterpart – the St. Valentine’s Day, that we talked about recently.
In fact, the signs of spring start earlier than that, roughly about one month before the cherry blossom. It is when the plums start to bloom. True, they are not so abundant and not so visually overwhelming, but already bring that festive feeling.
And as you can imagine, Japanese people take out their cameras and go ume (i.e. plum) blossom photo-hunting. I tell you, the last weekend, while I was walking around with my phone, elderly Japanese around me were all well equipped with the “next level stuff”, i.e. a semi-professional camera as a minimum.
Then March kicks in with a nice combination of 3 and 3, which marks what is known as the Girls’ Day or the Dolls’ Day or Hinamatsuri. Traditionally, families that have daughters put on display a special set of dolls, depicting the imperial wedding.
Believe it or not, a complete set with seven stair-like layers can cost up to 10,000 USD and more. Generally, it is the duty of grandparents to give one of these to their grand-daughter as a present.
Every year, while the girl lives with her parents, they would take the set out in February and would keep it strictly until March 3rd. It is believed that the dolls remove evil and danger and is a way to wish growth and happy life to the girls. Yet, if the dolls are not removed right after March 3rd, this may mean late marriage (and no girl in Japan wants that!).
What about the boys, you will ask? The boys have their own day that comes on May 5th (5 and 5), when the decoration is typically a warrior helmet, wishing them strength and happiness.
While it is hard for me to believe that anyone would ever pay thousands for dolls, even special ones, rephrasing one famous quote, everything is possible on the third day of spring 😉