Customs and Traditions

Contents

03/09/2014 Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【AUTUMN】Tsukimi, the ‘Moon-Viewing’: How the Japanese Honor the Harvest Moon

Learn the customs and symbols for the most typical Japanese autumn celebration.

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25/09/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【AUTUMN】Customs for October

Learn about the Japanese holidays and traditions for the month of October. Did you know you’re supposed to change your wardrobe on October first?

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30/08/2014 Manners  Traditions

How to use your Japanese Folding Fan the Right Way

The different uses of the folding fan in Japanese culture Many people may think of the folding fan as something to put on the wall for decoration or as an accessory used by noble ladies at social gatherings. However, in Japan, the folding fan is an object primarily for cooling oneself, and is used by both women and men alike. The primitive form of the folding fan originated in Japan during the Heian period (about 834-848 A.D.) when slender strips of wood were used for writing notations. These were bound on one side so that they could be carried around more easily. Fans made their way to China, where they […]

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08/09/2015 Seasonal Activities  Shinto & Buddhism  Traditions

【AUTUMN】How to Enjoy the “Chrysanthemum Festival” on September 9th

It is one of five festivals in Japan. September 9th is also called Choyo-no-sekku or Kiku-no-sekku, because the chrysanthemum, or ‘kiku’ is the seasonal flower on the old Chinese calendar.

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20/09/2015 Seasonal Activities  Shinto & Buddhism  Traditions

【AUTUMN】Ohigan, the little know tradition of visiting the graves

Red spider lilies

Read about this typical celebration for the dead, a unique mix of Buddhism and Japanese Shintosim.

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26/11/2015 Festivals & Events  Seasonal Activities

“Toshi-no-ichi Hagoita-ichi,” an end of the year event that presents an array of Tokyo traditional craft items

Hagoita-ichi

A major year-end event that is bustling from morning till night The Toshi-no-ichi (Year-end Fair) is held each year from December 16th through 19th at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. As this is the final fair for the year and offers New Year’s goods and lucky charms, it is also considered to be the busiest fair of the year. The Toshi-no-ichi started in the Edo period. One of the lucky charms that on sale here is the hagoita, or traditional Japanese battledore. Because so many of these are sold, the event is also sometimes referred to as the “Hagoita-ichi” or “Battledore Fair.” Hagoita were once used to play battledore and […]

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17/12/2014 Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】The ‘Nengajo’ Postcard: a heartwarming tradition of the Japanese New Year

nengajyo_title

Japanese people exchange Nengajo postcards as New Year Greetings, much like Western people sending Christmas cards to each other.

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27/12/2014 Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】“Otoshidama” is the New Year’s gift that kids can’t wait for!

otoshidama

It’s what kids receive on New Years day for pocket money! In Japan we have a custom called “Otoshidama,” when adults give kids money on New Years day. There is a meaning behind it that says,“Happy New Year”and wishes for good health and happiness in the coming year. It’s a big event for children as they can finally buy some long awaited toys and games or save it for their future. Either way, it will be a good opportunity for them to learn about money. For parents it can be quite expensive because they not only give “Otoshidama” to their kids, but to their relatives children as well.   Originally, […]

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30/12/2014 Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】”Joya no Kane,” the bells that ring out the old year and purify people’s hearts on the last night of the year

joyanokane

See the old year out with a calm and quiet heart How is everyone going to spend New Year’s eve? Some of you will probably spend it at a countdown party with your friends, having fun all night. In Japan, everybody looks forward to the New Year, but they actually welcome it in a quiet manner. If you have ever spent a New Year’s eve in Japan, you have probably heard the sound of the temple bells ringing in the middle of the night. But do you know the meaning of those bells being rung over and over again? The sound of those bells is called “Joya no Kane,” and […]

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10/02/2015 Festivals & Events  Traditions

“Hina Matsuri,” a doll festival for girls that prays for health and happiness

The picture above is a doll set from a family who has daughters and is on display during Hina Matsuri every year. Hina Matsuri started during the Heian period (about 1000 years ago) and is celebrated on March 3rd (“Joshi” from the luna calendar) of every year. At the time, people made dolls out of paper, soil, and straw hoping that, these dolls are a substitution for their disease and mishaps, and because of this, they set them afloat down a river or out to sea. Also during the Heian period, upper class girls would play with intricately made dolls (Hiina) and the custom of making dolls and Hiina-asobi (playing […]

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03/02/2016 Manners  Travel Tips

The dos and don’ts of bowing in Japan

In shops, in the streets, on the phone… You may have noticed that Japanese people bow all the time! Japan has a lot of hidden rules like where to stand in the escalators, are what to do with your shoes… But the manner of bowing is very visible. Ojigi, the “bow” is an essential manner for the Japanese people, especially when doing business. An adult who can’t properly bow will be labelled rude or childish. Although the “bow” is routinely used in Japan, there are nuances that even some Japanese people might ignore! If you intend to do business with Japanese people, it’s better to know the basics of the […]

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19/12/2014 Ramen, Soba, etc...  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】Eating “Toshikoshi Soba Noodles” on December 31st will give you good fortune?

toshikoshisoba

New years Eve (Omisoka) has arrived! In Japan we call the last day of the year, December 31st, Omisoka. This day is to rid oneself of negativity and prepare for the New Year. One end of the year custom is eating Toshikoshi Soba Noodles, commonly eaten on the last day of the year. Why, you ask?   Eat Toshikoshi Soba Noodles and free yourself from the hardships of the year! There are several reasons. First of all, the noodle is easy to cut, symbolizing the ability to cut off the evil and negativity of the year. Also, the noodle is long and thin, so it signifies living longer and being […]

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05/01/2015 Food & Specialties  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】The Japanese New Year’s dish, “Nanakusagayu.”

nanakusgayu

Is this dish too simple for New Year’s festivities? “Nanakusagayu,” a dish from the Edo period. “Nanakusagayu” (rice porridge) is famously known by the Japanese and is one of many New Year’s dishes. Japanese New Year’s dishes usually contain many ingredients, but this porridge only uses 7 fresh young herbs. They are; seri (Japanese parsley), nazuna (shepherd’s purse), gogyo (Jersey cudweed), hakobe (common chickweed), hotoke no za (henbit), suzuna (turnip), and suzushiro (daikon), that are all collectively called the “Seven vernal flowers.” 【Photo by Hidetsugu Tonomura 】   Eat it while praying for good health in the New Year! The custom of eating “Nanakusagayu” on January 7th is an old tradition […]

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06/07/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【SUMMER】Japanese Customs for July

July 1st: “Yamabiraki” or the opening of a mountain to climbers. This is the first day of the year when people can climb a mountain. It originated from the custom of opening a mountain in the summer for a certain period of time to hold rituals. For Mt. Fuji, the opening ceremony is held at Asama Shrine. July 7th: Tanabata Tanabata is one of the most important seasonal festivals following Hina Matsuri and Tango no Sekku, or the Boy’s festival. Tanabata is held everywhere in Japan. It’s the day you write down your wishes on a slip of paper and hang it on bamboo leaves. If you want to celebrate […]

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31/08/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【AUTUMN】Japanese Customs for September

Customs for September

Sat, 1 September: Disaster prevention day Disaster prevention day (防災の日, bousai no hi in Japanese), was established to raise awareness for disasters by learning from the Great Kanto earthquake that occurred on September 1st, 1923. This is the season for typhoons, so this day is aimed at raising anti-disaster consciousness. Many drills will take place all around the country. Sat, 1 September: Nihyakutooka It is the 210th day counting from the day of “Risshu”, or spring. Nihyakutooka is the season when rice plants bloom, but also the season for typhoons. Farmers become very cautious on September 1st. There are ceremonies held all over Japan to calm the winds. Sun, 9 September: […]

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30/10/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【AUTUMN】Customs for November

Customs for November

Friday,3 November: Culture Day This is a national holiday designated as a day to celebrate the proclamation of the Constitution of Japan in 1946. It’s also to spread love and peace and to culturally inform people. There are many art-related events and school festivals held on this day and its known as usually being sunny on this day. Tuesday, 7 November: “Ritto”, or the begging for winter This is the day indicates begging for winter. On this day, you might feel it starting to get colder in the mornings and evenings. The sunlight also feels weaker, and winter is just around the corner. In Japan, the cold wind that blows […]

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28/11/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】Japanese Customs for December

Customs for December

We refer to December as “Shiwasu”. In Japan, we usually ‘tie up loose ends’ in the old year to have a more refreshing New Year. We visit people who take care of us, clean house, write Nengajo, and prepare for Shogatsu (New Year). We have so many things to do. We used to invite monks (師) to our homes, making December a very busy month for them. This is why December is called Shiwasu, which literally means, “the monk is running”. ”Shiwasu” Sun, 31 December: Cleaning and Dusting We clean and dust our homes. Many people clean their house at the end of the week during their time off. ”Grand […]

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30/12/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Festivals & Events  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】Japanese Customs for January: Happy New Year!

Customs for January

1st January to 7th January, The first visit to a shrine Hatsumode, or the first visit to a shrine, is a custom for new year in Japan. We wish for success in our New Year. People used to visit a shrine at night after the sun sets on New Year’s Eve, but now it’s common for people to visit in the morning after breakfast. In some areas, people visit a shrine and pray exactly when the date changes called, “Ninen-mairi”. Izumo Taisha Shrine Wed, 6th January Xiaohan Xiaohan comes 15 days after the winter solstice. Xiaohan continues until the beginning of spring. Around the 6th of January, Oshogatsu finishes and everybody goes backs to their normal […]

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28/01/2016 Everyday Life in Japan  Festivals & Events  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】Japanese Customs for February

Customs for February

Wed, 3rd February: Setsubun Setsubun is a day that marks the changing of the seasons, and especially marks the day before Risshun, the day when spring begins to draw near. There are many events held in Japan on February 3rd. It is said that demons come out during this season, so people drive them off by throwing roasted beans. During these celebrations, people yell out loud, “Oni-wa-soto, Fuku-wa-uchi,”literally meaning “go away demons and bring good luck.”After that, people throw roasted beans at other people disguised as demons, wearing masks and special ‘demon’ attire. Thurs, 4th February: Risshun Risshun starts on this day and used to be considered New Year’s day, […]

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25/07/2014 Manners  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【SUMMER】Ochugen, The gift of summer

Japanese custom calls for the giving of gifts twice a year to someone who is taking care of you. This duty is performed once in the summertime, called ochugen and once at the end of the year, called oseibo. The custom started at the beginning of the Edo period in the 17th century. At the beginning of July each year Japanese department stores prepare for this event with special displays and offer delivery service. During the Ochugen season you can find many unique and special items from all around Japan! The type of gift given usually depends on the recipient: Sweets are given to families with children Somen (Japanese fine noodles) […]

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09/08/2014 Seasonal Activities  Shinto & Buddhism  Traditions

【SUMMER】7 Japanese traditions for “Obon”, honoring the spirits of the ancestors

Very much like the New Year, Obon is a very important familial event in Japan. Here are a few customs you may observe during this period.

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05/06/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【SUMMER】Japanese Customs for June

June 1st: Koromogae (Seasonal change of clothing) Schools and companies that use uniforms change them to their summer attire. This custom has existed for over 1000 years and people used to change their furnishings as well. On October 1st people change to their winter attire. June 10th: Time Day It was designated in 1920 to spread the importance of time among Japanese people. The day was derived from June 10th, 1400 years ago when the first ‘set’ water clock gonged. Nyuubai: Entering the rainy season In Japan, the rainy season is called “Tsuyu”. The date it starts depends on where you live in Japan. In 2018 for Tokyo, it will […]

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27/07/2015 Everyday Life in Japan  Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【SUMMER】The Japanese Customs for August

Sat, 1st August: Hassaku This old custom is also called “Ta-no-mi-no-sekku”and it’s for giving the first ears of rice to those who take care of you. There will be festivals to wish for a successful, large harvest all over Japan. Sat, 8th August: Risshu Risshu (立秋) means “the beginning of autumn”in Japanese. It will be in the middle of summer, but a sense of autumn is said to come from this day. Around the 14th of August: Obon The ghosts of your ancestors are said to come back to this world around this day to spend some time with your family. Japanese families will return to their parent’s houses and […]

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10/08/2015 Seasonal Activities  Shinto & Buddhism  Traditions

【SUMMER】The Japanese Tradition of Visiting the Ancestors’ Graves during ‘Obon’

Visiting graveyards to rest your ancestor’s soul is called “Haka-mairi”. You can visit the graveyards anytime, but people will usually visit on the same day as the Buddhist memorial service and on the same day of their death.

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12/08/2015 Activities  Festivals & Events  Seasonal Activities  Traditions  Travel Tips

【SUMMER】You too can experience Bon-Odori, the traditional dances of the Japanese summer.

Bon-odori

It originally started as an event to pray to your ancestor’s souls. It’s known as an event that everyone of all ages can enjoy. It is also commonly known as a festival held during Obon season. A turret is setup in a large park or square and people dance around it.

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17/12/2015 Seasonal Activities  Traditions

【WINTER】Keep your body warm during the winter solstice

winter solstice

Winter solstice is a day when sun the is reborn. The 22nd of December is the winter solstice. It is the shortest day of the year in Japan, and after this the days become longer, so the sun is said to be reborn on this day. It means that you’ll have good fortune from this day on. Eat the pumpkin and drive off the cold! We have a custom of eating pumpkins on the winter solstice. Pumpkins are said to have good fortune for finance. They are very rich in nutrition, so it drives off any winter illnesses. Since you are less likely to nourish yourself with carotene and vitamins […]

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18/07/2016 Shinto & Buddhism  Traditions

What is Shinto, ‘the way of the spirits’ ? A short introduction to Japan’s oldest religion.

To the rest of the world, Japan is often perceived as Buddhist country. The truth is Buddhism arrived in japan around the 6th Century. Before that, Japan had its original indigenous faith: the Shinto religion. Shinto is well alive today and is rooted in Japanese people’s everyday lives. Here is a short introduction to this typical Japanese beliefs system.

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18/03/2015 Everyday Life in Japan

A Family of Fingers! What do you call each finger of the hand in Japanese?

The Names in Japanese Originate from Size or Usage Sorry for the sudden question, but what is each finger of the hand called in your country? In Japan, they are referred to as: #1 親指、Oyayubi: ‘Parent Finger’ #2 人差し指、Hitosashiyubi: ‘Pointing Finger’ #3  中指, Nakayubi: ‘Middle Finger’ #4 薬指、 Kusuriyubi: ‘Medicine Finger’ #5 小指, Koyubi: ‘Little Finger’   Why are they named this way? #1 is the biggest, so it’s called the “Parent” finger. #5 is the smallest, so it’s called the “Little” finger. #3 is in the middle, so it’s called the “Middle” finger. Why is #2 called the “Pointing” finger? It  comes from the fact that you use this […]

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02/07/2015 Arakicho  Everyday Life in Japan  Shinto & Buddhism  Traditions

How to write on the wooden plaque called ‘Ema’ and send your wishes to the Shinto gods.

Ema for praying for success at school

Sending your wishes to the spirits If you have ever visited a Shinto religion shrine, you may have noticed these small wooden boards hanging. They are called ema. Japanese people believe that the kami (god or spirit) housed in the shrine will grant your wish if you write it on them. Typical wishes are getting into a specific school, living happily with your family, or being blessed with good children.  If you have a wish you really want to be granted, you can do some research and chose a shrine accordingly: some shrines and their kami have specific powers like granting prosperity to your business, finding love (like in Kamigamo shrine), succeeding in exams, […]

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27/04/2015 Traditions

Origins of Hanami, the Japanese custom of enjoying beautiful, seasonal flora

Enjoying Cherry Blossoms During this season, Japanese people gather under cherry blossom trees and enjoy the traditional pastime called Hanami. Viewing cherry blossom trees at night is called Yozakura, and during this event, the trees are usually lit up with decorative lanterns or spot lights. The cherry blossom is one of the most loved flowers in Japan. The history of Hanami had a different meaning for the Japanese, and Hanami origins stem from ancient Japan. The sacred tree is for the rice paddy god Japanese are also known as being very agricultural people. During the spring, we can see the farmer who beds out rice-plants in the beautiful terraced paddy […]

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11/05/2015 Traditions

On the day of Boy’s Festival, why not give the doll, Kakinuma Ningyo to your precious boys?

"Kakinuma Ningyo" was created in 1950 by 1st-generation doll maker Toko Kakinuma. Manufacturers of Edo Kimekomi hinakazari and boy’s festival dolls.
The current president, Toko Kakinuma (the second) has been recognized by METI (the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) and the governor of Tokyo as a master traditional craftsman.
After learning about the delicate inlays and special coloring techniques involved in the creation of kimekomi, Mr. Kakinuma continues to strive to improve his techniques and to keep the “Toko Brand” fresh by incorporating current trends and innovative techniques.

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