Flowers in Japan

Festivals

Here are the main festivals in Japan. The festivals are held in traditional way, thus very interesting to observe.

GANJITSU (January 1) : the day on which the birth of the new year is celebrated. Nobody works on the first three days of the new year, the period called sanga nichi, or shogatsu. Shogatsu originally referred to the whole of January, but now is used just to refer to these three days. On these days, the people go to shrines, visit friends and relatives, drink sake and eat special new-year dishes, called osechi. Shimenawa, sacred rice-straw ropes, are hung across the top of the gateway, which is also deorated with pine boughs or kadomatsu (gate pines). The kadomatsu symbolizes a tree provided for the descent of the gods. This pine decoration is left in place from January the first to the seventh (until the fifteenth in olden times), the period referred to as matsu no uchi.

SETSUBUN (February 3 or 4) : the day before the beginning of spring according to the lunisolar calendar. On the evening of this day, people open the doors of their houses and drive the demons (i.e. bad luck) out of their homes and gardens by throwing handfuls of beans and shouting “Demons out! Good luck in!”

HINA MATSURI (March 3) : the festivals of dolls. Also called Girl’s Day Festival, this is the day on which wishes are expressed for the future happiness of girls. A set of dolls dressed in costumes which were worn in the royal court in ancient times are displayed together with peach blossoms as decoration. A sweet drink called shirozake, brewed from rice from rice gruel mixed with fermented rice, is partaken of on this day.

TANGO NO SEKKU (Mei 5) : the Boy’s Festival for expressing the hope that each boy in the family will grow up healthy and strong. Warrior figures are set up in the house during this festival, isir leaves are placed under the eaves to fend off evil, and huge-fish-like streamers are fastened to poles. Special rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves are eaten on this day.

TANABATA (July 7) : the Star Festival, which is said to be a combination of Chinese tradition with beliefs peculiar to Japan. This festival celebrates the meeting, just once a year, of two lovers, Kengyu (the star Altair, personified as a cowherd) and Shokujo (Vega, as a weaving girl), who are separated by the Milky Way on the other days of the year. Pieces of bamboo are set up in the garden and adorned with strips of paper of five different colors on which are written poems asssociated with the legend, and offerings of food, such as corn and eggplant, are made. Also, young girls pray that their handicraft will become as proficient as Vega’s was supposed to be.

OBON (around mid-August) : the Festival of Souls. In this festival a variety of foods are offered to the spirits of ancestors, and their repose prayed for. People who have moved to the cities to work return to their home towns during this period. In Tokyo and other major cities this festival is celebrated in July. In towns and villages across the country people in yukata (light cotton kimono) gather for outdoors dances known as bon-odori. For many Japanese, summer wouldn’t be summer without a bon-odori.

TSUKIMI (night of the full moon on August 15 and September 13 of the lunar calendar) : the days for “moon gazing”. Decorations of Japanese pampas grass are used, and moon-offerings of sake and dango (a kind of dumpling) are made as the people gaze at the moon, enjoying the autumn evening.

HIGAN: (two periods of seven days with the middle day falling on the spring or autumn equinox): the word higan meaning “the other shore,” or, in Buddhism, nirvana. During higan the spirits of ancestors are recalled, Buddhist rites carried out and family graves visites.

SHICHI-GO-SAN (November 15): the seven-five-three festival when parents with boys of five, girls of seven and either boys or girls of three dress their children in gay clothes and take them to shrines where they pray for their children’s future. These three numbers were chosen since odd numbers are considered lucky.

CHRISTMAS : There are not many baptized Christians in Japan, but many people engage in festive activities on Christmas Eve. Children, especially, enjoy receiving presents from “Santa Claus”.

Links :

  1. About Japan festival callendar : http://gojapan.about.com/od/japanesefestivals/Japanese_Festivals.htm
  2. About tsukimi :

    http://www.fuzita.org/jpculture/tukimi/tukimi.html

    http://japanesefood.about.com/od/holidaytraditionalfood/a/tsukimifood.htm

  3. About hinamatsuri :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinamatsuri

    http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/march/hinamatsuri.html (for kids)

    http://www.ginkoya.com/pages/girlsday.html

  4. About ganjitsu :

    http://www.lgfl.net/lgfl/leas/ealing/web/EGFL1/teaching_learning/subjects/REandSACRE/Festival_calendar/January/Ganjitsu.htm

  5. About tanabata :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanabata


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