Main Annual Festivals

○ Ganjitsu (January 1): the day on which the birth of the new year is celebrated. Nobody works on the 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. Children play (Japanese ) cards, battledore and shuttlecock and kites. Shimenawa, sacred rice-straw ropes, are hung across the top of the gateway, which is also decorated with pine boughs or kadomatsu (gate pines), This pine decoration is left in place from January the fist to the seventh (until the fifteenth in ancient times), the period referred to as natsu no uchi.

○ Hina matsuri (March 3): the Festival of Dolls, Also called Girls’ 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 gruel mixed with malted rice, is partaken of on this day.

○ Tango no sekku (May 5): the Boys’ 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, iris 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 associated with the legend, and offerings of food, such as corn and eggplant, Also young girls pray that their calligraphy 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.

○ Tsukimi (nights 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 dumping) 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 visited.

○  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 their children in gay clothes and take them to shrines where they pray for their children’s future. These three numbers as odd numbers are considered lucky.

○ Christmas: There are not many baptized Christians in Japan, but many people enjoy the festival atmosphere of Christmas and Christmas Eve. Children, especially, enjoy receiving presents from “Santa Claus.”

Cited by「cafe21」


○元旦(1月1日):新年の門出を祝う日である。元旦から1月3日までの3日間を「お正月」または「3が日」といって完全に仕事を休む。「正月」とは本来 「1月」のことであるが、習慣的にこの3日間を指すようになっている。神社に参詣したり、知人宅を訪問して新年のあいさつを交わし、酒を飲み、正月独特の 料理(おせち料理)を食べたりして楽しむ。子供はカルタ遊びやたこ揚げ、羽根つきなどをする。正月には、門には注連縄を張り、松飾をつけ、または門松を立 てる。松飾のある期間は元旦から7日まで(昔は15日まで)で、この期間を「松の内」とも言う。



○ 七夕(7月7日):中国伝来の風習とわが国固有の信仰とが結合したものといわれている。天の川(銀河)の両岸にある牽牛星と織女星とが年に1度あうことを 祝うお祭りである。庭前に供物(とうもろこし、なすなど)をし、歌や字を書いた五色の短冊を笹竹につけて飾り、織女星にあやかって女児の手芸の上達を祈 る。