Happy Hinamatsuri! March 3rd marks Hinamatsuri in Japan, an ancient festival celebrating daughters and a day to wish for the health and happiness of girls.
What is Hinamatsuri?
Hinamatsuri translates to "Doll’s Festival" as on this day, families with young daughters display "hina ningyo" dolls, representing Japan's court, including the emperor and empress, from the Heian period (794 to 1185). It is also called “Momo no Sekku” (Peach Festival), one of the five seasonal turning points in Japan.
The History of Hinamatsuri
Hinamatsuri has a long and rich history, dating back to the Heian period (794-1185). During this period, dolls were used in purification rituals to ward off evil spirits. In the Edo period (1603-1868), the practice of displaying dolls during Hinamatsuri became more widespread. It was during this time that the festival became associated with the health and happiness of girls in the family and the dolls were seen as a way to wish for the prosperity and well-being of the family's daughters.
Today, Hinamatsuri is celebrated throughout Japan, and is a day for families to come together and celebrate the young girls in their lives!
Celebrating Hinamatsuri with Tasty Food
Food plays a central role in celebrating Hinamatsuri! On this day, we enjoy eating foods that are colored white, pink and green, which represent a wish for girls to blossom and grow like the peach flowers + buds that emerge from the white snow.
Examples of such colorful foods include “hanami dango” (green pink and white mochi on a stick) and “hina-arare” (green, white, pink and yellow Japanese rice crackers sweetened with sugar). Other special foods include Sakura-mochi, a lovely light pink mochi wrapped in salt-pickled sakura leaves that just shouts springtime!
Chirashi-Sushi, the perfect meal for this spring festival
The star of the show though is Chirashi-Sushi or “scattered sushi”, a type of sushi made with colorful ingredients strewn over sushi rice. It’s a popular choice for Hinamatsuri because it’s so visually appealing and many of the common ingredients have auspicious meanings. These include lotus root (representing looking into a hopeful future) and shrimp (happily growing old, represented by the bent back of the shrimp). Chirashi-Sushi is also popular as it’s a way to beautifully play with the pink-white-green color combination that defines Hinamatsuri.
How to make Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Chirashi-Sushi
For Hinamatsuri this year at Bento&co, we decided to make a special type of Chirashi-Sushi, featuring ingredients cut out in sakura (cherry blossom) patterns to add to the festive springtime mood.
Here’s what we used:
- Stainless Steel Japanese Food Cutters - Sakura
- Large bento box (to go with the Sakura theme, we used the Rabbit Moon Small Shokado Bento Box, which features a sakura design)
- Japanese short-grain rice - 1 rice cup = ¾ US cup
- Sushinoko Instant Sushi Seasoning 75g - 1 tablespoon
- Cherry blossom Daikon pickles* (If you’d like to skip this step, you could substitute with watermelon radish or carrots)
- Sashimi-grade raw fish (we used salmon and tuna) - 7 oz (200grams) each
- Steamed Snap Peas - 5-6 (for some green! You can also use Snow Peas or Okra)
- Tamagoyaki (made from 2 eggs)
Other ingredients you could add--there are many options!
- Sliced cheese
- Ikura (Salmon roe eggs)
- Boiled shrimp
- Smoked salmon
- Shiso leaf
- Nori seaweed
- Crab or imitation crab
*Instructions to make Cherry blossom Daikon pickles
- Cut daikon into 1/4 ~ 1/2 cm slices.
- Cut sakura shapes from the daikon using the sakura cutter.
- Mix 5 tablespoons of vinegar (rice vinegar is recommended), 1 tablespoon of sugar together, and 1 teaspoon of Yukari-chan Furikake in a container and stir. Add 1 teaspoon of water if you would prefer less sour pickles.
- Add daikon to the mixture and let sit for at least 3 hours until daikon is dyed the desired pinkness.
- Cook Japanese short-grain rice
- Once rice is cooked, transfer to large bowl.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Sushinoko Sushi Seasoning over cooked rice
- Mix thoroughly using a rice paddle.
- Taste, and add more Sushinoko Sushi Seasoning if you would like.
- Leave rice to cool while preparing toppings.
- If they are not cut already, cut daikon pickles or watermelon radishes into sakura shapes with Sakura cutter.
- Cut snap peas diagonally
- Use Sakura cutter to cut tamagoyaki into Sakura shapes.
- Cut sashimi into slices or cubes
- Place rice into bento box.
- Scatter sashimi over rice
- Next scatter snap peas
- Complete with sakura shaped radishes and tamagoyaki.
We hope you try and make Chirashi-Sushi at home because it's the epitome of a low-effort, high-reward meal that's perfect for a celebration and for wow-ing friends and family. What's great is that you can customize it to your liking, adding the seafood or vegetables that you enjoy! Adding cherry blossom shaped ingredients definitely takes things to the next level and makes it instantly more exciting. Let us know if you make chirashi-sushi at home, we'd love to see your pictures!
Curious to try more recipes? Check out more on our blog!