I first encountered the Hina Matsuri (Girls' Day, or Doll Festival) as a youngster in Washington, D.C., when my father and I attended an event hosted by future Prime Minister Yoshio Mori at the then new Japanese Embassy. As we entered the grand foyer of the modern concrete building, we saw a stadium seating-like platform, displaying dolls that were as big as small children. On the top tier sat the Imperial couple. The lower levels held attendants, musicians, guards and valets, as well as all of the accouterments and provisions necessary for a royal procession. From there, we were led to the quiet garden and the teahouse where we were presented with macha tea and a sticky, green herbaceous mochi (rice cake).

I still associate the Hina Matsuri with the contrast between the grandeur of that doll display and the simplicity of the quiet, 4 1/2-mat tearoom — both pieces of Japanese culture impeccably re-created overseas, just as they are created every year in Japan.

Today, the third day of the third moon, Japan celebrates the Momo no Sekku (Festival of the Peach), known in modern Japan as Hina Matsuri. The peach festival was celebrated in ancient China to ensure the blessings of a long and happy marriage. In old Japan, paper dolls — made for each child in the household and later floated down a river — were added to the festivities.