Japanese for Children

Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

Every year Japanese people celebrate the Tanabata Festival during the summer. The story behind Tanabata is the romantic meeting of 2 stars. There are one female star, Orihime, and one male star Hikoboshi.  They only get to meet once a year because they are seperated by the Milky Way. But when they meet, between them there are many stars lined up in a row which look like a river to the human eye. The Japanese believe this happens every 7th day of the 7th month (according to the lunar calendar) and have been celebrating Tanabata festival for a long time.

The most famous Tanabata festival is Sendai Tanabata Festival. This year it started on July 6th and it had a special meaning since it was the first Tanabata festival after the Great Tohoku Earthquake. As Sendai is the closest big city to the Earthquake epicenter, the festival was celebrated in a smaller scale compared with the past years. The downtown Sendai was decorated with 3000 bamboos with colorful streamers. 80,000 school kids prepared wings to be put on the ornaments. There was abig sign that had a meaning close to “Let’s return to Smile (or Put a smile on your face).” This year, it is expected that 1,750,000 will visit the city for the festival, down 600,000 from the last year before the quake.

Matsuri in Japan

Japan holds many regional festivals which are called “matsuri.”  The original meaning of the word is “respect to God.”

Matsuri is usually held in the Shinto shrine. The participants remember the ancestors, express their gratitude for god and wish for success in business and health.

People carry Mikoshi and Danjiri, and keep dancing. Spectators can enjoy Japanese snacks and a special cake sold with Yatai. Many people prefer to wear a Kimono that is called Yukata though dressing casual is also fine.

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Gion-Matsuri, Festival, in Kyoto Japan

The three major local festivals are  Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka, and Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo.

Every year about 460,000 people attend Gion Matsuri, 1,100,000 people attend Tenjin Matsuri and  300,000 people attend Kanda Matsuri.

Festivals, Holidays and Celebrations

           The two most important holiday celebrations in Japan are New Year’s and Bon Obon. New Year preparations begin in mid-December when everyone cleans and decorates their houses, offices and buildings in anticipation of a visit fromToshigami, the god who brings the blessings of the New Year. Businesses send New Year’s cards to their customers and individuals send them to everyone they know. These are taken to the post office in December to be held for delivery on January 1. People also exchange gifts and give money to children. During the last part of December forget-the-year parties (bounenkai) are hosted. However, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are spent quietly with the family. On New Year’s Eve they listen to the 108 tolls of the temple bells which cleanse us of all sins and bring new life. While Westerners stay up until midnight, Japanese get up early to see the first sunrise. They also eat noodles to bring good fortune in the coming year.  New Year’s Day includes a visit to a shrine and a special family dinner.

Obon is the Festival for the Dead usually celebrated in mid-August. It is a Japanese belief that the spirits of the deceased relatives come back to earth to visit their living families during this time. Houses are cleaned in preparation for the visits. Lanterns are hung in front of houses to welcome and guide the spirits. Families also visit the graves, where they pray and place offerings of flowers, food and drink. Community dances called Bon Odori are held. Here people erect a high wooden structure (yagura) which houses the musicians. The dancers dance in a circle around the yagura. When Obon ends, the people place floating lanterns in various bodies of water  to guide the spirits back home.