In Hawaii, on the third day of the third month, you might notice little presents like colorful mochi on the desks of the gals in the office. Originating in Japan, Hinamatsuri, or Dolls’ Festival, was a time when girls would display the special dolls they’d been given as newborns, handed down from generation to generation. These dolls were thought to ward off evil spirits and were therefore good luck.
In Hawaii, people celebrate Girls' Day in various ways. But one of the most thoughtful and traditional gifts given to women and girls on March 3 is mochi.
Though mochi is a favored gift in both Japan and Hawaii, the types of mochi are different.
According to Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's Education and Programs Manager, Derrick Iwata, there’s hishimochi in Japan and chi chi dango in Hawaii. “Hishimochi is a special mochi that’s eaten on March 3 in Japan. It’s diamond-shaped and made with three layers of colored mochi. The three colors of the hishimochi are pink, symbolizing fertility, white, symbolizing purity, and green, symbolizing springtime or new growth.”
As for chi chi dango, Iwata says that “dango” is Japanese for “dumplings, usually three or four on a stick.” But here in Hawaii, we don’t expect our chichidango to be skewered. We expect the pink and white rectangular pieces of delicious, chewy mochi. Hawaii chi chi dango comes from a small confectionary in Hiroshima. The recipe was brought over from Japan by Asataro Hirao, who opened a candy store in Honolulu. The store is still in business and the mochi is so popular that it’s often sold out by the end of the day.
If you want to honor the ladies in your life this Girl’s Day, chichidango is the way to go.
Photo credit: Megan Wakayama