Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Happy Shop v Baby Plaza

In Takaoka I pass the neighbouring ‘Happy Shop’ and ‘Baby Plaza’ stores, which are going head to head (side by side) for seasonal business. These have changed their stock in the run-up to the next big occasion, which is Boys’ Festival, held on 5th May.

Both are currently selling ‘satsuki ningyo’, expensive sets of ‘gokatsu’ samurai-knight-in-armour pieces ( http://www.goshiki-japan.com/culture_art/cul_02_2.html ), as well as ‘koinobori’ ('carp steamers' - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koinobori ). (Later during these holidays, I see - within walking distance of Oosaka castle - a full street of at least twenty such competing shops, the largest showpiece versions of these sets commanding prices of around £2000.)

Girls’ Festival (‘hina matsuri’ - http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa022501a.html ) is held on 3rd March in most parts of Japan. On that day, families with daughters display ‘hina-ningyo’, sets of dolls arranged on a five or seven-tiered stand.

Hina-ningyo at Snow's house, early March

In and around Takayama, where hina-matsuri does not take place until 3rd April because of the late coming of Spring to the area, the displays are only now being set up.

Since Boys’ Festival, unlike Girl's Festival, is a national holiday, it is also more inclusively known as ‘Children’s Festival’ (‘kodomo no hi’ - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children's_Day_(Japan) ).

Maybe there are tomboys (‘otenba’) who would rather have a samurai set than a hina-ningyo. Too bad for them: in Japan, you are a boy or a girl, a samurai or a princess.

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