March 3rd was Hinamatsuri, or “Girl’s Day.” A few days before this holiday each year, a family with daughters will display an extravagant set of ornamental dolls that represent an emperor, empress, and their attendants and musicians. This tradition is extremely old, dating back to the Heian period of Japan (c. 794 – 1185), and can be determined by the traditional clothing the dolls wear. These dolls are handed down through generations, typically to a daughter when she gets married, and are displayed around Hinamatsuri to bring good luck and health to the girls of the home. From what my host mother explained, it is very tedious and time consuming to set up, and considering how fragile everything looks I definitely believe her. Needless to say, I had the opportunity to see my host mother’s dolls, and on Hinamatsuri her parents came over for dinner for us to celebrate.
Another part of Hinamatsuri is sugar. It’s custom to drink a bubbly, pink drink, as well as eat hina arare, which are crackers made from rice that are flavored with sugar. Lastly, there is rice cake. After eating all of these, as well as sakura shaped marshmallows, I felt like I had consumed enough sugar to last me a week…
It was nice to have been able to take a break from writing my term papers to spend some time with my host sisters, who are without a doubt some of the cutest children I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. At the ages of six and one and a half, these girls give me insight as to what it’s like having a child in Japan as well as keep me busy and make me laugh. At times, they can get pretty rowdy, but it’s always nice to take a break from my studies and inquire to what recent shenanigans they have been getting into. Aina, the six year old, is extremely patient with her younger sister and very creative. When she isn’t playing with Mizuki she is probably practicing the piano, drawing a picture, or dressing up like a magician. A few weeks ago I drew her one of her favorite anime characters as a gift, and ever since not a week has not gone by that I have not received multiple drawings from her in return. She’ll draw me everything from anime characters, to portraits of myself, to outfits that she designs for me to wear someday. Aina currently hopes to be a fashion designer someday, and at the rate she is going I don’t think it’s very far out of reach!
Furthermore, Aina reminds me just how difficult it is for me to learn Japanese. At times, it is very frustrating that I can’t understand her (not only does she clearly know more Japanese than me but she also speaks at the speed of a bullet), but her mother helps to translate for me and since many of her questions and statements repeat I’ve begun to pick up on a lot of Aina-isms. She is also beginning to memorize basic kanji, which is impressive to me but also difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I understand that Japanese students are forced to learn kanji at a quick and early rate, and though it’s sometimes bizarre to see a six year old practicing her characters it’s also extremely normal for her to be doing it. Living with Aina and Mizuki is definitely giving me a look into Japanese culture that I would not be able to see otherwise, and on the plus side, they’re beyond adorable!