Monday, March 4, 2019

Japan's Doll Festival (With a Shenmue Touch)

March 3rd was the Doll Festival celebration in Japan (also known as Girls' Day), for which ornamental dolls are put on display. It is a special day for families to celebrate their young daughters, praying for their success and happiness.

Yu Suzuki and the Shenmue team have joined in the spirit with a celebratory Shenmue-III-themed illustration.

Ryo and Shenhua celebrating the Doll Festival.
Yu Suzuki also wrote a message accompanying the illustration.

The text reads:
"One day late, but yesterday, March 3rd, was the Doll Festival.🎎 Perhaps in America it's still going on?
#Hinamatsuri #girls festival #doll festival #japaneseday #shenmue3"  

What's In the Illustration

Spelled out across the bottom of the illustration are letters making up Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival), against a silhouette of blossoms. These blossoms are likely to be peach blossoms, a harbinger of spring, since according to the lunar calendar bloom around the beginning of the third month; hence March 3 is also known as Momo no Sekku (Peach Festival).

The dolls are displayed on a red-carpeted, stepped platform, and are said to represent the roles of the various members of the imperial family. On the top step, seated on cushions, are the central figurines of the festival: Ryo and Shenhua are playing the role of Emperor and Empress!

Certain specific decorations and ornaments traditionally accompany the dolls, as seen in the illustration, the Emperor holds a ritual baton, and the Empress holds a fan. They usually sit in front of a gold folding screen - as well as a pattern of peach bloom, the Shenmue III logo can be faintly observed!

Next to them are two lamp-stands, with paper or silk lanterns decorated with peach blossom patterns, and placed between the two figures are two vases containing peach branches. In front, on low diamond-shaped stands, are multicolored rice cakes called hishi mochi.

Finally, in the background behind the folding screen can be seen a pretty pattern of blossoms; not of peach this time but, from their distinctive shape, cherry blossom beckoning in spring.

A Traditional Hina Matsuri Display

Traditionally, a display may have up to seven tiers which hold additional figurines such as courtiers, musicians and other attendants. They originated in the court culture of Kyoto during the Heian Era and first began spreading across the nation in the eighteenth century.

The dolls are generally expensive to buy and so are often passed down through generations. They also take up a lot of space in the house, so simpler displays are available which consist of only the top one or two steps.

A full doll display of several tiers. The emperor and empress sit at the top.

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