Check out these articles

Hinamatsuri at Shimogamo Shrine, Kyoto: Video Introduction

This video, titled "[Past Video] Kyoto Nagashibina at Shimogamo Shrine (Filmed in Sakyo, Kyoto, March 3, 2017)" (【過去動画】下鴨神社「京の流しびな」(2017年3月3日撮影 京都市左京区)), was uploaded by "Kyoto Shimbun" (京都新聞).

About Hinamatsuri & Shimogamo Shrine

Hinamatsuri, also known as Girl's Day, is an annual event in Japan to pray for the healthy growth of girls. It's a seasonal festival/event in which special dolls called "hina" are decorated with cherry blossoms, oranges, peach blossoms, and other decorations. The History of Hinamatsuri dates back approximately 1,000 years to Japan's Heian Period, and references to hina dolls can even be found in famous Japanese texts, such as the Tale of Genji. In the past mainly paper dolls would have been used, and while they are still used for some ceremonies, eventually the more luxurious dolls we see today became the norm for celebrations.

Kyoto is home to an endless number of historical shrines and temples and Shimogamo Shrine is no exception. Shimogamo Shrine is a famous shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the oldest shrines in Japan. It's a must-visit tourist attraction in Kyoto and there are many different restaurants and cafes serving traditional sweets in the area around it.

Nagashibina (Floating Hina Doll Festival), is a Hinamatsuri Festival that's held every year on March 3 at Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. In early spring, when the weather is still cold, the tranquil air above the Mitarashi River and the buds on the plum trees remind us of the arrival of spring.

This Hinamatsuri festival features hina dolls dressed in Junihitoe, a unique twelve-layered kimono worn during the Heian period by noble women, and a variety of other dolls wearing kimono and crowns. There are even town mascots participating in the event. Check out the video of the Hinamatsuri Festival at Shimogamo Shrine to see the unique Nagashibina event where hina dolls made of Japanese paper are placed on woven straw vessels and sent floating down the Mitarashi River.

The History of Nagashibina, the Roots of Hinamatsuri

Image of Nagashibina at Shimogamo Shrine (Kamo Mioya Shrine), Kyoto
Photo: Nagashibina at Shimogamo Shrine (Kamo Mioya Shrine), Kyoto

Shimogamo Shrine is A World Heritage Site in Kyoto, Japan and is formally known as Kamo Mioya Shrine. The Nagashibina Hinamatsuri festival, held every March, is a traditional event that is said to be the origin of Hinamatsuri.
According to the history of the festival, it originated from "Joshi no Sekku," one of the five seasonal festivals of Japan, which was introduced from China.
March 3 falls on the second of the five festivals, "Joshi no Sekku." On this day, there was a Chinese custom of purifying the body by the waterside and holding a banquet to drive away misfortune. It's believed that these ancient Chinese Sekku events mixed with the Japanese beliefs of misogiharai (purification via water ablutions) and the custom of praying for good health by floating purified dolls (hitogata) down the river, resulting in the modern Nagashibina Hinamatsuri festival we have today.

The "hitogata" are also said to be the origins of modern Hina Dolls. The story of purifying the human form and putting it on a boat and floating it into the sea in Suma is mentioned in "The Tale of Genji" an epic written in the mid-Heian period (794-1185 A.D.) that's widely considered the first novel ever written.

When to See the Hinamatsuri Event at Shimogamo Shrine

Image of a Nagashibina doll at Shimogamo Shrine (Kamo Mioya Shrine), Kyoto
Photo:A Nagashibina doll at Shimogamo Shrine (Kamo Mioya Shrine), Kyoto

Here we'll introduce the Nagashibina Hinamatsuri Festival held at Shimogamo Shrine. The hina dolls dressed in Heian period costumes, are chosen by couples from the general public who are planning to get married.
[Video] 0:25 - Hina Dolls Being Chosen by the Public

The event is usually held on March 3rd, but please check the official website for details.

The Nagashibina Hinamatsuri festival takes place along the Mitarashi River, which flows in front of the Mitarashi Shrine (御手洗社, Mitarashi-sha) and Inoue Shrine (井上社, Inoue-sha), which are located at the end of the shrine's precincts. Hina dolls made of Japanese paper are placed in straw vessels and floated down the river to pray for the health and safety of the children.

The highlight of the festival is the junihitoe, a 12-layered kimono worn during the Heian period, as well as seeing the hina dolls portrayed in human form. Seeing the festival being held will give you a sense of the historical atmosphere typical of the ancient capital of Kyoto.

The festival is free of charge, and the Nagashibina dolls used for the Hinamatsuri festival are available for a fee (small: 500 yen, large: 1,000 yen).
[Video] 1:02 - Hina Dolls Floating Down the River

On the day of the Hinamatsuri event, amazake (a sweet, low-alcohol or non-alcohol type of sake) will be served, which is a welcome treat during the colder months of the year.

Other Nagashibina Hinamatsuri Events Across Japan

Image of Nagashibina Hinamatsuri
Photo:Nagashibina Hinamatsuri

In addition to Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto, there are many Nagashibina Hinamatsuri festivals and events held throughout Japan. Below is a list of some of them:

●Hina Nagashi at Awashima Shrine, Wakayama Prefecture
The Hinamatsuri event at Awashima Shrine is known as Hina Nagashi, and features three small white wooden boats that are used to carry the dolls, with wishes written on them, out to sea after a purification ceremony by a shrine priest. The festival is usually held on March 3.

●Edo Nagashibina, Tokyo
Edo Nagashibina is held to pass on traditional events to children and to wish for their bright futures. Please check the official website for more details.

●Yose Nagashibina, Yose, Tottori
The Yose Nagashibina Hinamatsuri event is held on March 3 of the lunar calendar to pray for good health and safety, and was designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Tottori Prefecture in 1985.

●Hina Nagashi at Akama Shrine, Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi
The Hina Nagashi event at Akama Shrine is held every March to comfort the spirits of Emperor Antoku and the Heike clansmen who died in the Battle of Dan-no-Ura at an early age.

Summary of Hinamatsuri at Shimogamo Shrine, Kyoto

Regardless of the time period or region, Nagashibina is always a time to wish for good health and a bright future for children. The dolls are modeled after purification dolls from various parts of Japan to purify themselves by allowing their impurities to be washed away in the water.

This event is held in March, when the aroma of the Japanese plum blossoms is in the air. The Shinto rituals and customs in each region have changed little by little, but the concept behind them has remained unchanged since ancient times. Experience Hinamatsuri and Japanese culture while enjoying tourism and spring in Kyoto!

【Official Website】Shimogamo Shrine|Kamo Mioya Shrine

【TripAdvisor】Shimogamo Shrine

Written By
Last Updated : Feb. 9, 2024
I'm an upcyclist living on the tip of the Boso Peninsula.
A Hinamatsuri Festival at Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto! Elegant Heian Period Costumes, History, and Other Hinamatsuri Events in Japan
If this article interests you, be sure to leave a follow.

Recommended Articles