March 3, 2010

Dolls Float on Polluted Water

Hina nagashi ("doll floating"), a Girls' Day ritual where hina dolls are sent down rivers or to the sea. This is an act of transference: impurities or illnesses are transferred from girl to doll, thereby keeping the girl safe from harm.

Some famous hina nagashi festivals use real hina dolls; at Nihonbashi Jogakkan, a girls' school in Tokyo, dolls were made out of paper and sent them down the Kanda River.

Since the school is located alongside the river, students crammed into the narrow space between the building and the river to watch.

Representatives from each class got to ride on the boat and release the dolls into the river.

Alas, the floating didn't go as well as planned. After several minutes, a cleanup crew went after the drifting dolls and rounded them up, one by one. This provoked the ire of the teenage girls, who protested over everything from the use of a mop to "catch" the dolls, the passing commercial boat that capsized an unfortunate doll, and the length of the ritual, which was admittedly anticlimactic.

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