八女のぼんぼり祭り

Last weekend, a lovely Japanese lady I met recently offered to take me to Yame, home of 八女茶 (some of the nicest green tea you’ll ever have) and the Hina doll bonbori festival. Many private residencies in the town display their Hina dolls in windows for visitors to see, signaled by bright pink paper lanterns hanging outside. If you have a real passion for dolls or strong interest in Hinamatsuri, I really recommend visiting Yame!

I’ll give a very brief explanation of Hina dolls, as I have really only learned about it myself and I recommend you do some reading online for a more in depth understanding. But the basics are “Hinamatsuri” (or Girl’s Day) takes place on the 3rd of March every year. Step-like platforms covered in a red carpet are displayed in shops, family homes and many other places, with beautifully dressed dolls. Each platform and doll has a different meaning, with sets of sake cups and ornaments which adorn the display.

Many families gift beautiful Hina dolls to their daughters and the day is celebrated to wish for good fortune for their health and futures.

One of the rather unique part of the festival I feel like we almost stumbled upon was a Hina doll “cleansing funeral”. There were numerous Hina doll collections at the shrine, brought there by families who gifted, or were gifted the collections but suffered ill fortune, sickness or death in the family. A beautiful ceremony was performed, with prayers read, food offerings and other gifts to cleanse the bad luck from the dolls for the families. Pretty haunting stuff!

I wish I had taken a picture of the ceremony to show what it was like, but it didn’t feel right, being a kind of “funeral” ceremony and all.

Oh – and there was this BEAUTIFUL collection of Hina dolls.. I couldn’t count how many there were, but I am pretty sure it was close to 100!20160312_150118.jpg

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