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Annual events of Japan

January (1 gatsu)

Shogatsu

New Year's visits to a temple "Shogatsu" is the Japanese new year's days.
It is on of the most important day for Japanese life, and all Japanese people refresh their minds in this day.
January 1st is a national holiday, and generally the first 3 days are holidays in Japan. Schools and most businesses close during these days.

Many people who live in large cities away from their families return home to spend these days with their families.
Most Japanese people visit to a shrine or temple and pray for peace and better luck. Surprisingly, far more over 90 million people visit there during the three days!

Many New Year's postcards are sent from relatives and friends, so reading them is one of the enjoyments in Shogatsu.
And children are given "Otoshidama" (a small envelope filled with cash) from their parents or relatives. So Shogatsu is a very exciting event for children.

Osechi dish All Japanese people eat soup with rice cakes and vegetables called "zoni" traditionally.
And a special selection of dishes called "osechi" are served during Shogatsu.

Coming-of-Age Day

The second Monday in January is a national holiday called Coming-of-Age Day.
The 20-year-old young people are recognized as adult in this day.
They get the right to vote, and drinking and smoking are also approved from this age.
Local governments hold special ceremonies to honor them.
Many women celebrate by wearing kimono of furisode, and some of men attende are dressed in Haori and Hakama.

February (2 gatsu)

Setsubun

Soybean-throwing ceremony at a shrine "Setsubun" is the day about February 3rd, and it is the traditional last day of winter.
The day's main event is the bean-scattering ceremony. This means to drive away evil spirits and bring in good fortune.
People hurl roasted soybeans around the entrances and rooms of their homes, shouting "In with fortune! Out with evil!".
People also eat the same number of soybeans as their age, wishing for good health and prosperity.

National Foundation Day

February 11th is the National Foundation Day and is a national holiday.
Unlike Independence Day of the other counties, this is not a specific historical date.
It is based on the myth that the first Emperor Jinmu ascended to the throne on February 11th in 660 B.C.
So it was decided that day was the beginning of Japan. (Of course, it is not known whether he actually was at that period.)

Valentine's Day

Chocolate shop for Valentine's Day February 14th is the Valentine's Day. This is the Western anniversary but it is a unique day in Japan.
Women present chocolates to men.
In past days, women confessed their love by gifting chocolates.
But recently they present to not only important lovers but also friends, husbands or office colleagues.
It is said that the sales of chocolates in this season is a quarter of the year.

March (3 gatsu)

Doll Festival

Doll Festival Doll Festival is March 3rd and is called "Hina-matsuri" in Japanese.
This is an occasion to pray for young girls' growth and happiness.
Most homes with girls display Hina-dolls.
And peach blossoms, rice cake cubes, special colored and diamond-shaped rice cakes, white sake, and other items are dedicated.
In some provincial towns, there is also an event called "Nagashi-bina".
Girls float the Hina-dolls on a flowing river to wash away bad luck.

White Day

March 14th is the White Day and is the only Japanese anniversary.
Men present to women in return for their Valentine's chocolates.
Of course, women expect more expensive presents than chocolates.

Vernal Equinox Day

On around March 21th, day and night have the same length.
In Japan, this is one of the important day from old times, so this day is still a national holiday.
In a week around this day, people visit their ancestral graves and make offerings of flowers and incense.

April (4 gatsu)

Cherry blossom season

Cherry blossoms Japanese people feel the spring with the cherry blossom.
Cherry trees are all over the country. They fully blossom about a week after they start to bloom, but after that all blossoms of the tree rapidly fall.
When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, we have custom to hold a party under the bloom with family, colleagues from work, or friends. It is called "hanami".
This season is in early April from Kanto area and to the west, and is in mid-April in Tohoku area.

Golden week

From the end of April to the beginning of May, there are a few national holidays and May Day.

  • April 29 : Showa Day (National holiday)
  • May 1 : May Day
  • May 3 : Constitution Memorial Day (National holiday)
  • May 4 : Green Day (National holiday)
  • May 5 : Children's Day (National holiday)

In addition, there are Saturday and Sunday during this period, so we can get long consecutive holidays.
Therefore, this week is called "golden week".
Because it has comfortable climates, many Japanese people go out or travel.
So sightseeing areas around Japan are crowded.

Showa Day

April 29th is "Showa Day" and it is a national holiday.
This was the birthday of Showa Emperor who reiged from 1925 to 1989.
In his period, Japanese people experienced world crisis, the Pacific War (World War II), postwar reconstruction and economic growth, the oil shocks and bubble era.

May (5 gatsu)

Constitution Memorial Day

May 3th is "Constitution Memorial Day" and it is a national holiday.
After the War of the Pacific, the current Japanese constitution came into effect on this day in 1947.
This is the proud constitution with principle of war renunciation.
Recently many people are arguing about whether we amend the constitution.

Green Day

May 4th is "Green Day" and it is a national holiday from 2007.
This day originally was a weekday, but the day between two national holidays became a new national holiday by law from 1985.
And this name was given in 2007.

Children's Day

Koi-nobori May 5th is "Children's Day".
Originally it was called Boy's Festival and was for celebrating boys' growing up, but now it has become a day to celebrate children in general.
On this day, families with boys set out Boy's Festival dolls, patterned after warriors and heroes, and fly carp streamers (Koi-nobori).
Carp have the strength to swim up waterfalls and have long been taken as symbols of success in life.
The day also features the practice from long ago of taking a bath with iris leaves which are reputed to have medicinal effect.
And it is also essential to make an offering of the traditional Japanese confections "Chinaki". It is rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves.

June (6 gatsu)

Seasonal change of clothing

hydrangea in tsuyu In Japan, June 1st is the day to change clothes for the new season.
School uniforms change to summer clothes, and ordinary people also change to ones.

The beginning of tsuyu

From mid-June, rainy season starts for about a month every year. (In Okinawa islands it starts from mid-May.)
This season is called "tsuyu". Rainy or cloudy days continue and we feel humid every day. The laundry is difficult to dry, and the cloths are easy to get moldy.
The Japan Meteorological Agency declares the beginning of tsuyu by region.

July (7 gatsu)

Tanabata

Tanabata "Tanabata" is the Weaver Star Festival on July 7th.
The Chinese legend, which has it that Altair (the Cowherd Star) and Vega (the Weaver Star) were split apart by the two banks of the River of Heaven (the Milky Way).
And they come together once a year on this night.
On the night of the 6th, people write their wishes or poems on strips of colored paper. And they hang the sprips on leafy bamboo.
Then, it is displated until the night of the 7th.
These are attractive enough to be called summer Christmas trees.

Marine Day

Marine Day is on the third Monday in July and is a national holiday since 1996.
Japan is a seafaring country and we thanks for the gifts from sea.

The end of tsuyu

Around mid-July, tsuyu finishes. (In Okinawa islands it finishes in mid-June.)
One day suddenly the sun brightly shines and it get very hot. This is the start of midsummer in Japan.
The Japan Meteorological Agency declares the end of tsuyu by region.

August (8 gatsu)

Atomic bomb days and Anniversary of the end of World War II

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Japan had battled against allied forces involving many Asian countries since 1937. But in 1945 Japan was near the defeat.
On August 6th, the city of Hiroshima was atom-bombed for the first time in human history.
And on 9th, the second atomic bomb was droped on Nagasaki.
Then on 15th, Japan made the unconditional surrender. More than 3 million Japanese people died in this war.

On each day, memorial celemonies are held every year.
We renew the determination to hand down the memories of the wretched war with the feeling that we should never go to war again.

Obon (Bon)

Bon dance event in a town "Obon" is originally Buddhist event occurring from the 13th to 16th August to hold a memorial service to the spirits of ancestors.
As the heading character "o" in "obon" make the word polite, it is also called "bon".

It is said that the spirits of the dead return at this time.
Fires are lit at the entrances to homes, so the spirits do not lose their way.
And lanterns being lit inside homes.
The Buddhist home alters are tidied up, and vegetables and fruit are set out as offerings.
When bon is over, the spirits are sent on their way.

Many people receive company holidays during the Bon period and go back to their hometowns. So the transportations around Japan are crowded.

September (9 gatsu)

Moon viewing

In the Orient, there is a custom of appreciating the moon from old times. Especially autumn is the best season.
In China and Korea, it is the big festival at the full moon night in late September.
In Japan, it is common that each home do as they like.
Traditionally dumplings, silver grass and seasonal fruits offered to the moon are set out by the window and the full moon is appreciated. But recently only a few homes do so.
For your information, Japanese see the dark patches on the moon as a rabbit.

Respect-for-the-Aged Day

The third Monday of September is a national holiday called Respect-for-the-Aged Day.
It is a day to honor the aged, celebrate their long life, pray for their good health in the future.
On this day, regional governments and respect-for-age associations organize all kinds of events such as variety shows and they present commemorative gifts. Volunteers make sympathy visits to old people's homes.

Autumnal Equinox Day

Harvesting of rice in autumn On around September 23th, the day and night have the same length.
Like Vernal Equinox Day in spring, this day is still a national holiday.
In a week around this day, people visit their ancestral graves and make offerings of flowers and incense.

October (10 gatsu)

Seasonal change of clothing

October 1st is the day to change clothes for the cold season.
School uniforms change to winter clothes, and ordinary people also change to ones.

National Sports Day

Athletic meets in a kindergarten The second Monday of October is National Sports Day and is a national holiday.
The day was originally celebrated on October 10th to commemorate the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. But it was changed to this day by a new law in 2000.
Its purpose is to familiarize with sports and nurture physical and mental health. So many sport events are held across the country.

November (11 gatsu)

Culture Day

November 3rd is a national holiday called Culture Day.
Originally, it was for observing the birthday of the Meiji Emperor, but now it is a day to love freedom and peace and to promote culture.
On this day, many cultural and art festivals held by each school and regional society.
And the government confers Cultural Order Awards on individuals who have contributed to Japanese culture.
In particular, people who have made efforts for the development of Japanese culture are presented with the Order of Cultural Merit, and they are award it directly from the Emperor.

Shichigosan

Shichigosan "Shichigosan" means the three numbers. In sequence, they are 7, 5 and 3.
Because odd numbers are auspicious in Japan, the odd numbered years of this important period of a child's growth are celebrated.
Boys are celebrated at 3 and 5 years old, and girls are celebrated at 3 and 7 years old.
On this day, children dress up in gorgeous kimono, and visit a Shinto shrine with their parents.
Shichigosan is originally cerebreated at November 15th, but recently many families select the own good day in October or November.

Labor Thanksgiving Day

November 23rd is Labor Thanksgiving Day and a national holiday.
This is the day for the people to honor labor, celebrate manufacturing and give thanks to one another.

December (12 gatsu)

Bonenkai

"Bonenkai" means the party for forgetting the year.
The group of members of workplace or the group of friends go to Japanese style pub and drink together.
So, from beginning to end of December, any and every pub is full.
Most people attend a few Bonenkais of various groups.

Christmas

Christmas Though most Japanese aren't Christians, they enjoy Christmas without faith.
They exchange presents with family and sweethearts, and enjoy their meal.
In particular, children look forward to find a gift from Santa Claus when they awake in the morning of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve enormous numbers of beautiful Christmas cakes are bought around Japan.
The strategy of department stores and businesses, which is to stimulate consumer desire, has created this sort of Christmas culture in Japan.
In addition, Christmas is not a holyday in Japan.

Omisoka

Joya-no-kane at Chion-in (Kyoto) The last day of the year, December 31st, is called "omisoka".
To welcome the new year with good feelings, general house-cleaning is completed and "Osechi" dishes are prepared by this date.
Many families go back to their hometowns, and bring in New Year with a sense of togetherness.
They are accustomed to eating "year-crossing noodles" in this day.
At about midnight, bells speeding the old year begin to be rung all at temples all around the country.
It is called "Joya-no-kane" in Japanese, and we Japanese that the old year is passing away and the new year is coming by.
According to Buddhist teaching, human beings have 108 worldly desires and they are removed by striking the bell 108 times at the end of the year.



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