Hinamatsuri. Part 1. Origin of Peach Festival

momo no hayasi

Hinamatsuri Peach Festival

It is said that Hinamatsuri originated in the Heian period as a form of play with dolls. In modern times it is a Girls Day festival held on the third day of March. One of the main elements is a display of dolls of Emperor and Empress (Tennnou and Kougouand their court in Heian period dress. This is the true story behind Hinamatsuri and it reveals why it is also the peach blossom festival. This is the charming tale of childhood friends who became the fourth Amakami. The deep significance to their wedding is that it was the first time that the Amakami were recognized as a couple, and this led to societal changeover to a family-based system.

Peach Festival of the Third Day of the Third Month

Long, long ago, Uhitini and Suhitini played together under the peach trees of Hinaru mountain as children. There were hundreds of peach trees. Momo means both hundreds and peach. They were called Momohinagi and Momohinami, momo boy kami and momo girl kami. Their name suffixes were ki/gi for the male, from ki for tree; for the female, mi meaning fruit. They were referred to as kimi.

When they became adults, a ceremony was held on the third day of the third lunar month when the moon was a slim crescent. Under the flowering peach trees, they poured miki sacred sake wine with the crescent moon reflected in it. When offered miki, she drank first and then he did. (Mi-ki, woman first, man second.) They exchanged love by the sacred teachings of To no Woshite. This was their wedding ceremony.

In the morning, they went to the stream to cool off their ardent bodies. When pouring water, their sleeves got wet, a lot and a little (u-su). And so they received their adult names, Uhitini and Suhitini

Their style of clothing can still be seen today, although worn only on special occasions by special people. He wore a kamuri (also spelled kanmuri) hat and a robe with uo-sote sleeves over hakama trousers. She wore a robe with ko-sote sleeves and a veil called uha-katuki.

The wedding of Uhitini and Suhitini has great significance to Japanese culture and history. This is the first recorded wedding when a wife is publicly recognized. This began the custom of marriage and, moreover, a new lifestyle when families were formed by men and women and their children living in their homes. Everyone followed the Amenaru miti.

A wedding is the start of a new generation. The Hotsuma poem says that their wedding was like the beginning of Universe after creation. The poem is full of words that sound similar and have different meanings. For example, momo for peach and for hundreds. The meaning of momo is abundance and fertility.

And so, today when we see the dolls displayed on Hinamatsuri, let us remember the loving couple Uhitini and Suhitini and the sacred institution of marriage which they began so long ago. Indeed, the custom of the bride sipping miki before the groom continues in a traditional wedding ceremony even today.

Photo Captions

The photo of a young prince wearing (left) uo-sote sleeves that have wide (uo) openings, and wearing (right) ko-sote sleeves with small (ko) openings. 

Drawing of a 15th century woman wearing uha-katuki on her head. The uha-katuki was originally a kimono with short sleeves worn as a veil. 

Photo below of  Tennnou and Kougou  Emperor and Empress hina-dolls in Heian court dress. He wears a kamuri cap, and her robes show the uo large opening sleeves. [Permission received for use of copyrighted photo.]