5 special traditional festivals in Japan

Throughout the year, Japan has a lot of interesting traditional celebrations.

Oshougatsu (New Year Festival)

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Japan selects January 1 of the Gregorian calendar to celebrate the New Year, it is called “Oshougatsu” in Japanese. This is considered to be Japan's largest holiday, lasting for several days with various forms of celebrations. The “Oshougatsu” festival takes place from the 1st to the 3rd of January. Japanese people prepare for the festival from December 8 to December 12 of the previous year.

On these days, every family cleans, prepares and decorates their homes with a Kadomatsu pine tree or a Shimekazari string hung in front of the house. Just like the traditional New Year festival of many Asian countries, the Japanese go to the temple on New Year's Eve, eat the feast of the year with the traditional dishes and give lucky money to children. Japanese children are involved in folk games like Tokoage and Hanetsuki.

Hanami Cherry Flower Festival

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“Hanami” in Japanese means “watching flowers”. Hanami Festival is considered one of the largest and oldest flower festivals in Japan. Every year, at the end of March or in early April, cherry blossoms all over Japan begin to bloom, and the Japanese are eagerly waiting for Hanami as a beautiful gift of Spring.

Hanami takes place in about 10 days, during which the Japanese will sit under the beautiful cherry blossoms, party, sing together, dance and comment on the beauty of flowers. You can easily catch the sight of some Japanese wearing traditional Kimono, sharing cozy meals with traditional dishes like Bento, Sushi and Sake.

Obon Lantern Festival

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“Obon” is a traditional Lantern Festival of the Japanese people, this is also considered to be a great celebration because it is the opportunity for children to show their love, respect and gratitude to their grandparents. Obon usually takes place in July, in different parts of Japan there are different organization days.

On the first day of the Festival, people usually hang lanterns at their doorstep so that their deceased ancestors can visit, visit the tomb and repair it. On the last day of the Obon Festival, people bring lanterns to the rivers, lakes, and beaches, as if they are sending the souls of their ancestors to their world. Normally, during that night, people also burn fireworks.

Koinobori Matsuri Carnival

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“Koinobori” means “carp flag”, with the Japanese, carp represents bravery and stubbornness which are derived from a legend of the carp transforming into dragon, implying the process of people working hard to achieve success. The Carp Festival takes place on May 5 of Lunar calendar but the carp flags have been hung in Japan 2 months before.

On this occasion, in addition to decorating the front door with colorful carp ribs, people often make traditional Obento dishes and carp-shaped food to pray for the children’s health and development.

Gion Festival

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“Gion” Festival, one of the largest festivals in Japan, is held at the Yasaka Shrine in July each year. With the view to wishing for health, people have organized rituals to keep their spirits from melancholy, fear and constant comfort. One of the most unique activities of the festival is the Yamaboko Yunko march on July 17th through busy streets of Tokyo.

In addition to the parade, Gion also has many activities of entertainment and reunion like the Mikoshi Purification Ceremony. The Gion Festival runs through July.

By: Sophie Martin

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