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Hako iri musume - Girl in a Glass Box

Dane:  Yuji, I hear you have another traditional holiday coming up soon.

Yuji:  Traditional holiday?  Oh, I guess you’re talking about Girl’s Day on March 3rd.

Dane:  Not Girl’s Day; the Doll Festival.

Yuji:  They’re the same thing.  Actually, it’s called Hina Matsuri.

Dane:  Is this another holiday you celebrate by doing nothing?

Yuji:  No, I have to work on March 3rd.

Dane:  You mean only girls celebrate Girls’ Day?

Yuji:  No.  I mean it’s not a national holiday, nobody gets a day off.

Dane:  Well there must be something to it.

Yuji:  Not in my family, there are no girls in our family.

Dane:  So, what do families with girls do?

Yuji:  My girlfriend says she eats chirashizushi, hand-made sushi rolls.

Dane:  That’s all?  That doesn’t sound very festive.

Yuji:  Well, my grandmother said their family had a huge display of dolls.

Dane:  What kind of dolls?

Yuji:  The empress Hina-sama, the Emperor, three female attendants, five court musicians, two state ministers, and three drunken samurai; plus a lot of accessories.

Dane:  Wow!  That’s quite a crowd.  How can you display that many dolls in your living room?

Yuji:  They put up a seven layer stand that takes up most of the room.  And then there are large dolls in separate glass boxes, too!

Dane:  Sounds pretty ostentatious.  Are these doll sets expensive?

Yuji:  Let me check on line.  OK, here’s a typical set at a discount site.  Let’s see…it goes for 120,000 yen

Dane:  You’re kidding!  That’s about $1,200.

Yuji:  That’s a cheapy.  Here’s just one Hina doll by a famous artisan for $2,500.

Dane:  Who would buy such a thing?

Yuji:  Usually people buy one for their grand-daughters.

Dane:  Why would anyone spend that much for something you can display for only one week – and gets packed in the attic after a few years?

Yuji:  I can see two good reasons.  One is just to show off.

Dane:  And the other reason?

Yuji:  Well, it started in the Heian Era about 1,000 years ago when rich people wanted to imitate the royal family. So it must be important for people who really admire the emperor.

Dane:  Is the royal family still so popular?

Yuji:  Well, I guess most Japanese respect them, but they aren’t trend setters anymore.

Dane:  But even if you love the royals and have the money, are Japanese houses big enough for such a huge display?

Yuji:  No.  My grandmother had the full set when she was a girl, but she got a miniature set for my mother.  And now my girlfriend says she had only two dolls, the Empress and Emperor.

Dane:  So the tradition’s dying out, I guess.

Yuji:  Yes, girls today are more interested in iPhone displays.

Ohina-sama

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Dairi -

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Minister of the Left

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Court musician

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蝋燭のにほふ雛の雨夜かな

Rousoku no niou

hina no amayo kana?

— 18th Century Haiku by Shirao Kaya

Wafting wax and soot

Is this evening shower

Marking Hina’s reign?

— Translation by Monde Dane

RELATED POST: JAPANESE GIRLS – 3/11/09

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