let us help symbols grow into acts of love
It is the last week of February, and in many Japanese households, mothers and their little daughters have already taken out or are taking out dolls for the Hinamatsuri holiday, a holiday dedicated to girls. It must be a very intimate moment and I just regret that I took the beautiful holiday into my life a little late. Although we bought our daughter a set of Hinakazari dolls in her first year of life, because that’s how it’s done in Japan, even from a major manufacturer from Kyoto, but in the hustle and bustle of moving from Japan to the Czech Republic and worries of everyday life, we forgot about big boxes on the closet. Thanks to Miyabi and you our guests, I unpack those beautiful figures from their soft packagings every year, at least for a day or two, I ventilate the naphthalene out and, according to the prescribed design, I set them at the entrance to the restaurant. It would be a shame not to enjoy their beauty! It would be a shame not to remember the message they have in them! My daughter is not ten years old any more, she is an adult and Ohinasama probably doesn’t impress her. She would not remember her princess and prince dolls herself. Maybe because we didn’t unpack them together when she was little. And so at least I take photos of the dolls every year and I write my daughter an email that they are exhibited and that we love her. Hinamatsuri is a holiday where the promise of family happiness is passed down from generation to generation, and I really want the holiday to stay alive. It is extremely life-giving.
Secular nativity scene Hinakazari
Hinakazari is a kind of secular nativity scene, where instead of the holy family with the newborn Jesus the Savior of mankind, the focus is only He and She, two figures, two people. They are the promise of the family. In a complete arrangement of puppets and things, their entire household with all its needs and relationships is created on several step levels. The main actors are Obina and Mebina or Odairisama and Ohinasama. Emperor and Empress. Prince and princess. They are at the highest level and are the largest and most magnificent. The celebrity is She, the princess and Empress Ohinasama and all the girls with her. He stays slightly in a shadow. Below them on the next step are three beauties, who both pour sakes and serve them. I understand that it represents the basic human needs which must first be met. What we eat and drink and how we eat and drink is simply of paramount importance. Musicians are on the next stage. They express another of the indispensable human needs. That is satisfaction through art. There are five musicians – drums, flute and vocal. Only in the next fourth stage downwards, practical worries are shown – it is necessary to ensure food supplies, movables and immovable property, the running of society, law and health. And because the figurines were originally created for the imperial daughter in the imperial family, there are two ministers at this stage and have the tools necessary for their work. They are the Minister of the Left and the Minister of the Right. And now notice! There are three figures on the step below them – one is laughing, one is crying and the third is angry. Yes, that’s how it is in life – there are moments of joy, but there is also suffering and injustice, when one is angry. It’s the same for princesses and princes as for any persons when in a relationship. When they form a couple. The little girls, whose dolls were intended for playing and meditation, were led to known at an early age what life is all about. Two more are added to the five steps of life situations. There are chests, tables, dishes and also a carriage for travel, just what is needed in the household. Things.
The most popular Hinakazari have for centuries been in the form of dolls dressed in costumes from the time of Heian (794 – 1185). It was the golden age of the Japanese aristocracy, when robes had many layers and were of brocade and silk. If you want to be modern, you may also find Hinakazari made up of Barbie dolls, for example. They have beds, TVs as furniture and a luxury cars as a means of transport. Often, the numerous arrangements shrink to only two main actors, Obina and Mebina. It doesn’t have to be dolls, just their drawings. I saw that bunnies also played the role of humans. He blue and she pink. As a decoration and reminder of Hinamatsuri, mice and teddy bears can also play the role, but the deepest and most important idea behind Hinamatsuri will only be fulfilled by us humans if we help the symbols grow into acts of love. We have to train for that task all our lives.
Hinakazari are a great tool
When I got married in Japan, I had to learn the female role of wife and mother. I was intrigued that the Japanese language emphasizes that, for example, being a mother means “fulfilling the role of a mother,” “working as an ideal mother” – okaasan wo tsutomeru. The word tsutomeru – to practice a profession – infuriated me. I wonder how did my loved ones look at me when I ostentatiously promoted my idea that I must first and foremost be myself, an individual, a free and independent woman, an emancipated woman who is equal to a man in everything and who does not like to be automatically expected of fulfilling stereotypes, what should look like and what should be done. I was angry and sometimes crying. And I laughed too. Japan, even with its holidays, drew me into the whirlwind of life and probably changed me a lot. Then, at my age of sixty, when I was standing in front of a two-meter statue by Niki de Saint Phalle called The Bride in the Pompidou Gallery in Paris, I was indignantly angry at the artist’s riots, and at the same time I understood her so much. The statue attracted me. I knew how much struggle every woman must experience when she gives up her life for life emerging. As a mother of four, I remembered my shortcomings and transgressions. They were hung on that statue. At that very time in Pompidou, I longed for a sculpture of ObinaMebina to stand there. It would be two figures, without any pacifiers, prams and other hanging pendants, a pair that would radiate an ideal – the power of sincere reciprocity from which new ones are born, because otherwise they cannot.
In the spirit of Ohinasama, to convey to the little girls the message that they have a mission ahead of them, that it is a beautiful mission, that they must learn that mission and that they would not be able to do it alone without help of others, is in itself a gift for mothers, their daughters and the whole family. The Japanese custom of Hinamatsuri certainly has an analogy in many communities around the world. And maybe it would be interesting to put them side by side and draw lessons and inspiration from them. Now, in a time of pandemic, when many mothers and children are more together than they would like to be, and are sometimes angry with each other, this could be a nice assignment. It would also be important to examine how, in different countries, given expectations of girls and women are enforced, for example, by violence. Or how the transmission of wisdom from generation to generation disappears in an excess of interests, experiences and excitements, until in the end only the decoration remains, which no longer has the power to speak.
Hinamatsuri feast has a rich stage. I like it because it is playful, promotes beauty, is full of symbols and can captivate with its practical tasks. Where there are two and where people eat and drink, all is good. So let’s drink a sweet amazake drink in the spirit of Ohinasama, eat a bowl of sushi chirashi rice with spring delicacies, drink a soup with a large mussel, which has two shell parts as a symbol of an inseparable partnership, enjoy a pink-yellow-green sweet in the shape of a diamond and thus cheered, let us remain full of the desire to transform symbols into acts of love. And it doesn’t matter what situation we are in and what conditions we have.
Yours, Miyabi Darja