Japanese Winter Holidays
Winter is a busy travel season in Japan. If you are planning to visit Japan this holiday season, it’s wise to make train reservations in advance. Here are the winter-season Japanese holidays.
The New Year ((お正月) is the most important of all Japanese holidays. The entire country shuts down from December 30 to January 3. Oshogatsu (New Year) is often celebrated with bonenkai (year-forgetting) parties to leave the old year’s troubles and worries behind. A widely practiced Japanese custom is to prepare toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles) on New Year’s Eve to represent longevity. The sending of New Year’s cards is a very popular practice among the Japanese.
Seijin no Hi (January 10)
Seijin no Hi (成人の日 , Coming of Age Day) welcomes individuals who have reached the age of majority (20 years) over the past year and encourage their roles as adults in society. Ceremonies are usually held at the prefectural and local offices, and family and friends host after-parties.
Also known as the Japanese Doll Festival, the Hina Matsuri features the display of ornamental dolls along red carpet platforms. On this national holiday, Japanese families wish their daughters a happy and successful lie. Dolls are usually displayed in homes together with a handful of peach blossoms.
Shunbon no Hi (March 21)
Popularly known as Spring Equinox, Shunbon no Hi is a day in spring where there are equal number of hours for darkness and light. Special services are usually held at the Buddhist temples in Tokyo and all over Japan.
The National Foundation or Henkoku Kinen no Hi (建国記念の日) is a holiday that celebrates the founding of the Japan’s imperial line by the first emperor, Jimmu. Celebrations for this day usually include the Japanese flag raising ceremony and the reflection of the Japanese citizenship.
Japanese Winter Festivals
During the winter season, Japan comes alive with a wide variety of colorful festivals, events and celebrations that take place all over the country. If you are planning to enroll in KCP’s Japanese language winter term course, then here are several events that you can look forward to during your stay.
Plum Festival (late February to middle of March)
The Japanese Plum Festival marks the arrival of early spring in Mito. Kairakuen is a famous spot for witnessing the beauty of over three thousand plum trees. The Kairakuen Garden boasts different species of plum tress such as pink, red and white blossoms. Also known as “ume”, the plum plays a significant role in Japanese culture for centuries now.
If you happen to be in Japan for the New Year, then feel free to join the crowds as they do the hatsumode (初詣), the first annual visit to temples and shrines of the year. Experience a fun and festive atmosphere as crowds start to gather to temples for prayer, line up along food stands and purchase lucky charms for another lucky year to come.
Also known as the New Year’s Parade of the Firemen, Dezome-shiki features over a hundred fire engines and helicopters, together with fireman performing fire fighting skills and emergency drills. The event’s main attraction is the performance of ladder stunts, where dancers dressed as firemen perform acrobatic stunts on top of a bamboo tower being supported by a group of men.
Sapporo Snow Festival (February)
Tagged as one of the country’s biggest and most spectacular winter events, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri features hundreds of ice sculptures and snow statues at Odori Park and other areas in Sapporo. Around two million people flock to Sapporo each year and witness the towering snow sculptures and statues that are beautifully lit up during the night.
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