The Japanese New Year (New Year Shogatsu) is an annual festival with its own customs. Since 1873, the official Japanese New Year has been celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar, on January 1 of each year, New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu). However, many traditional events of the Japanese New Year are still celebrated on the first day of the year on the modern Tenpo calendar, the last official lunisolar calendar which was used until 1872 in Japan.
Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi) is a Japanese holiday held annually on the second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached the age of majority over the past year, and to help them realize that they have become adults. This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day to congratulate and encourage people who have reached the age of maturity (20) during the year. Cities and towns throughout the nation hold ceremonies for these people.
Setsubun is the day before the beginning of spring in Japan. The name literally means “seasonal division”, but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun (Spring) celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival (Spring Festival haru matsuri). In its association with the Lunar New Year, spring Setsubun can be and was previously thought of as a sort of New Year’s Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come.
The origin of 11th February National Foundation Day is New Year’s Day in the traditional lunisolar calendar. On that day, the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu was celebrated based on Nihonshoki, which states that Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne on the first day of the first month.
The day originally coincided with the New Year’s Day according to the Chinese calendar and it is believed that Emperor Jimmu took the throne on this day.
In Japan Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a very unique style. It is the women who present gifts to men. There is a strong tradition of women giving chocolates to men on Valentines Day. There are two types of chocolates, “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate), and “Honmei-choco”. Giri-choco is meant to be for friends, colleagues, bosses, and close male friends. “Giri” means obligation hence this Giri-choco has no romance involved. On the other hand, Honmei-choco is given to a boyfriend, lover, or husband with true love. Japanese women often prepare the Honmei-choco by themselves as many of them think it is not true love if they just buy the ready made chocolate at shops.
March 3 marks the observance of the hinamatsuri (doll festival), one of five sekku, or seasonal festivals, celebrated through the year. Together known as gosekku, these events took shape in part through the influence of Chinese philosophy and were first observed by courtiers during the Heian period (794–1185). They fell on the first day of the year’s first month, the third day of the third month, and so on—dates considered to be highly auspicious owing to the doubling of odd numbers for the month and date.
White Day is a day that is marked in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and China on March 14, one month after Valentine’s Day. In Japan, February 14th gift-giving consists of women giving gifts to men, and so on White Day women receive return gifts (okaeshi, which means “a return“) from the men to whom they gave Valentine’s Day presents. Along with Japan, quite a few other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries also celebrate White Day.
Vernal Equinox Day (Shunbun no Hi) is a public holiday in Japan that occurs on the date of the Northward equinox in Japan Standard Time (the vernal equinox can occur on different dates in different time-zones), usually March 20 or 21. The date of the holiday is not officially declared until February of the previous year, due to the need for recent astronomical measurements. apan’s national holiday, The exact time and date of the sun shifting over the equator varies year-to-year, but this year, the vernal equinox will be Vernal Equinox Day (also known as Spring Equinox Day) will also be held on this day.
Golden week in Japan is a collection of four national holidays over a period of seven days. The holiday week starts from April 29th and goes through May 5th. Depending upon the calendar, many offices in Japan closes for about 7 to 10 days. Even though the holidays occur on non-consecutive days, people generally take off the in-between days.
The origin of Golden Week apparently comes from the entertainment industry as they thought that it would be a golden opportunity for people to have time, go out and watch movies during this period. At this time, many blockbuster Japanese movies get released. Let’s look at the holidays that fall during the Golden Week.
April 8 is the Buddha’s birthday and is celebrated at Buddhist temples in Japan as the Kambutsu-e nativity festival – more popularly known as the Hana Matsuri (Flower Festival). April 8 is not a national holiday in Japan, but there are festivals at temples everywhere in the country. This day is the celebration of Buddha’s birthday, often called Flower Festival or Kanbutsu-e.
The Takayama Festivals (Takayama Matsuri) in Takayama in Japan started in the 16th to 17th century. The festivals are believed to have been started during the rule of the Kanamori family.
Correspondence dated 1692 place the origin to 40 years prior to that date. One of the festivals is held on the 14th and 15 April and the other on the 9th and 10 October. The Spring Takayama Festival is centered on the Hie Shrine.
The first national holiday during “Golden Week” falls on 29 April. The date marks the birthday of the Showa Emperor, Hirohito. It is known as showa-no-hi (Showa Day). In Japanese calendar, Emperor’s birthday is a national holiday. During showa period, the birthday of the Emperor Hirohito falls on 29th April. In 1989, after the death of the Emperor, the day was no longer celebrated as the Emperor’s birthday.
The second holiday of Japan’s Golden Week after Showa Day comes on 3rd May. The day is a national holiday in Japan as it is celebrated as “Constitution Memorial Day” since the constitution of Japan came into effect on May 3, 1947 after World War II. The day is chosen to reflect on the meaning of democracy and Japanese government. Many newspapers, magazine publishes articles related to Japan’s government on this day. It is a part of collection of holidays known as Golden Week.
As the name suggests, the day is dedicated to commune with the environment and nature and to be thankful for the blessings. Started in the year 1989, after the death of the Showa Emperor, the day was celebrated on 29th April. But later on in 2007, Greenery Day moved to May 4 to acknowledge the Emperor’s love for plants and nature. Greenery Day is a third holiday of Japan Golden Week. It falls after Showa Day and Constitutional Memorial Day. Until 2007, the day was known as “in between day” as according to Japanese holiday rule, the day that falls between two holidays will also be a holiday.
The last holiday during Golden Week is celebrated in the name of children. On May 5th falls the last holiday of the week that is marked as Children’s Day. The day is Japan’s national holiday, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month. It is the only day of Golden Week that is a customary holiday and broadly celebrated. The day was originally celebrated as Boy’s Day (Tango no Sekku ), as Girls Day (Hinamtsun) is celebrated on March 3(not a national holiday), but in1948, the government announced the day as a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children (both sexes) and to show gratitude towards mothers.
Tanabata (Japanese: Tanabata, meaning “Evening of the seventh”), also known as the Star Festival, is a Japanese festival originating from the Chinese Qixi Festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar.
Marine Day (Umi no Hi), also known as “Ocean Day” or “Sea Day”, is Japanese national holiday celebrated on the third Monday in July. Many people take advantage of the holiday and summer weather to take a beach trip. Other ocean-related festivities are observed as well.
The date roughly coincides with the end of tsuyu (rainy season) in much of the Japan mainland. The day was known as Marine Memorial Day (umi no kinen bi) until 1996.
Tenjin Matsuri is one of the top 3 festivals in Japan (see also Gion Festival). This annual festival dates back over the last 1,000 years, it incorporates traditional singing and dancing, and it is considered to be the world’s greatest boat festival. This summer festival that happens all over the city of Osaka on July 24th and 25th starts at the Tenman Shrine.
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (“Aomori Nebuta Festival” or simply “Aomori Nebuta”) is a Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, Japan in early August. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country’s nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region.
The Awa Dance Festival (Awa Odori) is held from 12 to 15 August as part of the Obon festival in Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku in Japan. Awa Odori is the largest dance festival in Japan, attracting over 1.3 million tourists every year. Groups of choreographed dancers and musicians known as ren dance through the streets, typically accompanied by the shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute and the kane bell.
Yosakoi is a unique style of dance that originated in Japan and that is performed at festivals and events all over the country. The first Yosakoi festival was held in 1954 in Kochi. Yosakoi-style dancing has spread throughout much of Japan. The style of dance is highly energetic, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music. The choreographed dances are often performed by large teams.
Obon or just Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.
Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no Hi) is a Japanese designated public holiday celebrated annually to honor elderly citizens.
It started in 1966 as a national holiday and was held on every September 15.
Since 2003, Respect for the Aged Day is held on the third Monday of September due to the Happy Monday System.
Danjiri Matsuri are cart-pulling festivals held in Japan. The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is probably the most famous. There are other Danjiri Matsuri held in the City of Kobe and Haruki Town, but they are less popular and spectacular. The highlight of the Festival is a race between floats representing different neighborhoods. The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri first began in 1703 when the daimyo (feudal lord) of Kishiwada Castle, Okabe Nagayasu prayed to the Shinto gods for an abundant harvest at Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto.
Autumnal Equinox Day (Shubun no Hi) is a public holiday in Japan that usually occurs on September 22 or 23, the date of Southward equinox in Japan Standard Time (autumnal equinox can occur on different dates for different timezones). It’s a day not just to mark the changing of seasons but also to pay our respects to our deceased parents, grandparents, and other family members.
The months of September, October, November are usually considered the autumn months, but technically speaking, fall is the period between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice.
Health and Sports Day (Taiiku no hi), also known as Health-Sports Day or Sports Day, is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday in October.
It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle.
Culture Day (Bunka no Hi) is a national holiday held annually in Japan on November 3 for the purpose of promoting culture, the arts, and academic endeavor. Festivities typically include art exhibitions, parades, and award ceremonies for distinguished artists and scholars.
Shichi-Go-San (“Seven-Five-Three”) is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend. These ages in particular are celebrated both because the ages of three, five and seven are seen as important markers of stages in a child’s growth, and because odd numbers are seen as lucky in Japan.
Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinrō Kansha no Hi) is a national holiday in Japan which takes place annually on November 23. The law establishing the holiday cites as an occasion for commemorating labor and production and giving one another thanks. Similarly to other thanksgiving days around the world, this public holiday is connected to the autumn harvest. However, Kinra Kansha no Hi has the added bonus of being a day dedicated to the workers and labourers that keep Japan’s cogs turning. Whilst on the surface these concepts may seem unrelated, after a brief time-hop, their connection becomes clear. It became a holiday in 1948 as a day for citizens to express gratitude to one other for work done throughout the year and for the fruits of those labors.
The Emperor’s Birthday (Tenno tanjobi) is a national holiday in the Japanese calendar celebrated on the birthday of the reigning Emperor, which is currently 23 December, as Emperor Akihito was born on that day in 1933. Akihito is due to retire on 30 April 2019, meaning that the holiday will not be observed in 2019, and its next celebration will be on the birthday of Crown Prince Naruhito (23 February 2020). During the reign of Emperor Hirohito (Showa period, 1926–1989), the Emperor’s birthday was observed on 29 April. That date remained a public holiday, posthumously renamed Greenery Day in 1989 and Showa Day in 2007
Christmas in Japan is a fun, festive time of year. Since there are few Christians in the country, none of the religious connotations associated with Christmas were brought over from the West, and it isn’t a national holiday. However, many of the things traditionally associated with Christmas festive trees in the shopping malls, Christmas markets, and LED lights-make an appearance, as well as a few unique traditions that are purely Japanese.
Omisoka or ōtsugomori is a Japanese traditional celebration on the last day of the year. Traditionally, it was held on the final day of the 12th lunar month. With Japan’s switch to using the Gregorian calendar at the beginning of the Meiji era, December 31 (New Year’s Eve) is now used for the celebration. In Japan, there are a few customs practiced on this day. Some of these customs can be enjoyed by travelers from overseas as well. Let’s learn about omisoka in Japan and enjoy the end of the year even more. New Year’s Eve, Omisoka is celebrated as the beginning of a new year with new possibilities, but their celebrations are a little different.