How’s it going? It is the rainy season in Japan now, but it’s already getting hot! It feels like summer already.
Any plans for the summer this year?
I’m thinking about traveling a lot!
This time I wrote about some of the most important annual events and national holidays in Japan.
Hope this article will help you understand more about my country and culture!
In Japan, when a national holiday is on Sunday, the following Monday will be a holiday and a day between holidays will also be a holiday.
Some events below are from western countries and you can see how much we are influenced by different cultures (but at the same time we do keep some traditional events, which is very cool I think!).
New year Day
Jan 1st is the first day of the new year in Japan and many businesses are closed until Jan 3rd. Most people go back to their parents’ place and celebrate eating Osechi (An assortment of small dishes. Each dish has meaning, and people traditionally eat it to wish for good health and prosperity for the family for the year) ,and Mochi (rice cake).
Second Monday of January
Coming of Age Day
Young men and women who are turning 20 are celebrated on this day.
They wear traditional Japanese clothes and celebrate together (legal drinking age is 20 in Japan, so many of them enjoy drinking).
National Foundation Day
It is the day to celebrate the mythological foundation of Japan.
According to the earliest Japanese history record, the first Japanese emperor was crowned on this day in the year 660 BC.
It was brought from western countries and it became a tradition in the late 1970s (Chocolate companies ran advertisement and it became popular. Most Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during Valentine season).
In Japan, women give chocolate to men (Chocolate that is given to a loved one is called “Honmei-Choko”, to co-workers/bosses is called “Giri(obligation)-Choko, and to friends is called “Tomo(Friend)-Choko”). March 14th is called “White Day”, when men are expected to return the favor to the ones who gave them chocolates on Feb 14th.
It is the birthday of the current emperor, Emperor Naruhito.
Doll’s Day (Also called Girl’s Day)
It is the day to pray for good health and happiness of young girls in Japan. It is a tradition to display Japanese dolls dressed in decorative robes of the ancient imperial court at home.
Traditional food like Hishi-mochi (diamond shaped rice cakes) ,Chirashi sushi (many ingredients and raw fish are mixed and they are put on top of sweet vinegared rice) are displayed and served on the day.
Around March 20th
Vernal Equinox Day
It is the day around Mar 20th, when the March equinox occurs.
It is less popular now but people traditionally ate Botamochi on this day (rice cake covered with pasted red beans).
It is the birthday of the former Emperor Showa.
It is the day to celebrate the promulgation of the 1947 Constitution of Japan.
It is the day to be thankful for nature’s blessings (it was on April 29th until 2006 as Showa Day. It was moved to this date and celebrated as a day of Golden week now).
Children’s Day (Also called Boy’s Day)
It is a day to celebrate children’s happiness.
As the counterpart to Hinamatsuri, this day is also known as Boy’s Day.
On this day, Koinobori (carp-shaped windsock) is displayed (there’s a Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon).
Traditionally, the big black carp represents father, red one represents mother, and small ones are children.
As it was originally the day for boys, some people display Samurai dolls at home on this day.
Kashiwa Mochi (Rice cake wrapped in Oak leaves), and Chimaki (Sweet rice wrapped in a bamboo leaf) are served on the day (although this tradition is less popular now).
It is a Japanese festival originating from Chinese Qixi festival.
It is believed that the Milky Way separates Orihime and Hikoboshi (Vega and Altair stars), and they are allowed to meet once a year on this day.
People write wishes on colored paper and hang them on bamboo trees.
This is the day to give thanks to the ocean.
It was designated in 1995 as the first holiday in the summer months.
Many schools start Summer vacation around this time.
This is another relatively new holiday set in 2016 to appreciate blessings from mountains.
August 13th to 16th
It is a Buddhist event for commemorating ancestors.
It is said that the spirits of ancestors return to visit relatives during this time of the year.
People visit graves and Obon dance is performed at many temples and shrines.
Some people hang lanterns in front of houses to welcome those spirits.
At the end of Obon season, people float lanterns down the rivers for ancestors’ spirits to go back to their world safely.
Third Monday of September
Respect for the aged day
This is the day to honor and respect the elder people.
Events to assist the elders are held on this day.
Around September 23rd
Autumnal equinox Day
People reconnect with their families by visiting temples, shrines, and graves on this day. It is also the day to celebrate autumn harvest.
Second Monday of October
Health and sports Day
In 1964, Tokyo Olympics was held on this day.
Most schools have an annual sports festival around this time of the year.
In 2020, it will be on July 24th when the opening ceremony of 2020 Tokyo Olympics is held.
After 2020 on, the name of this holiday will be changed to Sports Day.
It was originally Emperor Meiji’s birthday.
It is a day to promote culture, art, and academic endeavor now.
Festivals are held in schools and at many places in Japan, and selected artists receive awards. In 1946, post-war constitution was announced on this day.
七五三/Shichi go san
It is a traditional rite of passage and a festival day to celebrate girls of 3 and 7 years old and boys of 5 years old.
Children wear traditional Japanese style clothes and people celebrate the growth and well-being of them.
Chitose ame (kind of a red and white, long candy) is served to hope for their long, healthy life (a crane and a turtle ,which represent long life in Japan, are drawn on the bag of it).
勤労感謝の日/Kinrou Kansha nohi
Labor Thanksgiving Day
This is the day to commemorate labor and production.
Labor festival is held in Nagano each year to think about the environment, peace, and human rights.
December 24th and 25th
It is not a national holiday, but Japanese people celebrate Christmas just like in many western countries (these days in city areas, people even enjoy Halloween wearing costumes on Oct 31st).
Christmas trees are displayed and decorated at stores and stations ,and people get busy buying presents (and cakes!).
New Year’s Eve
Families get together and most people clean the house to welcome the coming year. Watching some special TV programs while eating Soba noodle is a typical thing people do on this day.
At midnight, you hear the sound of Joya No Kane (New Year’s Bell).
Monks at temples ring the bell 108 times to remove worldly passions such as anger and pain ,and purify everyone’s minds.
By the way, Japan has as many as 16 national holidays (on average) and a worker can take 20 paid days off a year.
However, because the work environment is very competitive and the number of employees are declining in Japan (due to the aging population combined with the diminishing number of children), most people take only about 10 paid holidays.
We do need to improve the work environment to enjoy holidays and event more!
How about in your country?
Do people have enough time to enjoy national holidays and events?
Give me some comments below!
See you next time.