Japanese Culture

Coming of Age Day in Japan

Coming of Age Day group

The Coming of Age Day festival in Japan is celebrated on the second Monday in January, and honours young Japanese who reach the age of 20 in the current year (from April to April). Twenty is seen as marking the transition to adulthood, and is also the age at which it becomes legal to drink, smoke and vote in elections.

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Tags: japanese kimonos | furisode | coming of age | festival | tradition | zori

Ancestral spirits visit living relatives in annual Obon Festival

Japanese Bon Dance or Bon Odori

Obon is an annual Japanese festival to honour ancestors. In the belief that the spirits of the dead return every year to visit their relatives, people tidy up family graves, clean house, hang up lanterns and set out food offerings to welcome their ancestors. A traditional folk dance - the 'Bon Odori' or Bon Dance - is performed in welcome, but this is a joyful rather than solemn occasion.

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Tags: obon | bon odori | festival | Tokyo | yukata | summer kimono | video | traditional

Cherry blossom viewing in Japan

View of cherry blossoms at Yoshino

The cherry blossom is dear to Japanese hearts. As the blossoms emerge every spring, families and friends will gather across Japan to view their national flower (sakura) in bloom, drink warm sake and snack on sweet dumplings, in a tradition known as hanami ('flower viewing'). The ritual of hanami has been celebrated since about the 8th century, at first only by the imperial courts but later also enjoyed by the common people; nowadays, famous cherry blossom locations can get very crowded and locals compete for the best viewing spots in public gardens, setting out their picnic blankets hours in advance. With April marking the start of the Japanese school year and the month when many new employees begin work, hanami parties and cherry blossom festivals are also a popular way to welcome newcomers.

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Tags: cherry blossom | sakura | hanami | festival | Japan | Kyoto | Hiroshige | haiku | Issa | symbol | tradition | samurai | tea | food | wedding

Plum blossom festival heralds spring in Kyoto

White and pink plum blossoms and geisha serving tea

A few days ago in Kyoto, geisha served tea and sweet cakes in an outdoor ceremony beneath the plum blossom. This annual Plum Blossom Festival heralds the start of spring and honours a 9th century scholar and poet, Michizane Sugawara, a court official who greatly loved plum blossom. The festival takes place at the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, the best place in Kyoto to view the plum blossom: about 1500 plum trees bloom exquisitely throughout the grounds.

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Tags: plum blossom | festival | Kyoto | geisha | maiko | Japanese art | haiku | symbol | design | Japanese kimono

Valentine's Day in Japan

Valentine's Day in Japan heart and girl giving chocolates to boy

They do things differently in Japan. On Valentine's Day it's the girls who give to the boys, and it's always chocolate. A girl can give chocolate to as many men as she likes but the quality and quantity will indicate how she really feels: giving just a little of a cheaper variety ('duty' or 'courtesy' chocolate) is a not-so-subtle message to a work colleague or male acquaintance that he doesn't feature too largely in her dreams. Bestowing expensive, beautifully wrapped chocolates that she may even have made herself ('true feelings' or 'favourite' chocolate) expresses true romantic interest in the recipient. Of course the hapless male may find it difficult to discern the real message.

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Tags: Valentine's Day | White Day | gift | chocolate | 3D printing

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