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Japanese national holidays, festivals and events Written by Maciamo (New Year) - 1-3 January New Year is mainly

y a family celebration in Japan. People go back to their home t owns or parents' home. As most shops and restaurants are exceptionally closed fo r 3 days, people prepare the traditional "o-setchi ryouri" (), eaten during this per iod. (Adult's Day) - 15 January Celebration of the coming of age for boys and girls turning 20 that year. The co ming of age symbolizes mainly the obtention of the right to buy cigarettes and a lcohol legally. Ceremonies held at temples and shrines and girls wear special ki mono for the occasion. (Setsubun) - 2 or 3 February On the evening of the first day before the traditional beginning of Spring ( "riss hun"), a brief rite called "mame-maki" ( , literally "bean-throwing") is conducted a t temples and shrines to drive away evil spirits and disease. It is especially p opular with children. (Valentine's Day) - 14 February Contrarily to Western customs, it is normally only women who offer presents on V alentine's day in Japan. It is usually chocolate and is not restricted to their boyfriend, husband, but to any men among friends or colleagues. The joke goes th at as many Japanese men do not like sweets (including chocolate), women offer th em to their husbands but eat them afterwards. The other reason is that men have to reciprocate twice what they have received one moth later, on White Day. (Hina Matsuri) - 3 March This festival is dedicated to (young) girls. Dolls representing an ancient Imper ial couple are displayed in houses of unmarried girls to bring good fortune on t hem. The superstition has it that if dolls are not put back to their boxes befor e midnight, girls in the house will never marry. (White Day) - 14 March A Japanese invention. As only women give presents on Valentine's Day, men should return the gesture one month later. It is also called "knicker's giving day", a s some men buy panties to their woman. Again, that could be seen as a self-inter ested gesture, as men will enjoy their lady's wearing their gift. (Plum & Cherry Blossom Viewing) - February to April Blossom viewing has been popular in Japan for over a thousand years. Cherry blos soms ("sakura" ) are the most popular and are one of the symbols of Japan. Hundre ds of thousands of cherry trees have been planted all over Japan. Canals in citi es like Tokyo are typically lined with them and rare are the parks that do not h ave their fair share of cherry trees. Numerous companies and organization have been named after them, and "sakura" is also both a female given name and part of some family name '(Sakurai, Sakurajima , Sakuraoka...).

Plum trees ("ume" ) are the first to bloom in February, followed by peach trees ( "momo" ) in March and the cherry trees late March to early April (or a few weeks later in Northern Japan). (Higan) - around 21 March and 21 September Memorial services for the deceased are held at temples on the 7 days preceding t he vernal and autumnal equinox. People visit their family graves during this per iod. (Golden Week) - 29 April to 5 May One of the 3 major holiday period for Japanese along with the New Year and Obon, the Golden Week was thus named because it includes 3 public holidays within on week. These are Green Day ( , 29 April), Constitution day ( , 3 May) and Children ay). Depending on the year, these will be more or less conveniently combined wit h a weekend.

All flights and hotels are usually fully booked during the Golden Week and price s can increase up to 5-fold. It is best to avoid this period if you are planning to travel in Japan. "Kodomo no hi" on 5 May is mostly dedicated to boys, rather than all children (g irls have "Hina Matsuri"). Families with male children fly paper streamers of ca rps called "koinobori"(), which symbolize healthy growth. (Tanabata Matsuri or Star Festival) - 7 July According the the Chinese legend, a princess and a shepherd fell in love, but we re forbidden to meet, except for that day of the year (tanabata), when the two s tars Kengyu (the shepherd) and Shokujo (the princess) meet in the Milky Way. Children write poems or wishes on streamers of paper and attach them on special tanabata trees. Tanabata is celebrated on 7 August in some areas of Japan (e.g. Sendai). (O-Bon or Lantern Festival) - 13-16 August Obon is a Buddhist festival in homage to the spirits of the ancestors. It is sai d that the spirits return to earth during Obon, and lanterns are lit in front of houses to show them the way to their family. Lanterns are then floated on river s to indicate the way back to the underworld - although the practice is now forb idden in big cities to avoid pollution. Obon is normally held mid-August, but sometimes also mid-July. Many people livin g in cities return to their hometowns. It is also a busy vacation period, like t he New Year and Golden Week, although this applies to all August, not just Obon itself. (Halloween) - 31 October Halloween is also celebrated by Japanese youths nowadays, though it is pretty mu ch restricted to wearing costumes in nightclubs in areas such as Roppongi or Shi buya in Tokyo. Children do not go from door to door asking for candies. (Shichi-Go-San or 7-5-3 Festival) - 15 November Shichigosan is the traditional custom of taking boys aged 3 and 5 and girls aged 3 and 7 to be blessed at the local Shinto shrine to thank for their good health and pray for future blessings. Children are dressed up in colourful kimonos. (Christmas) - 25 December All Japanese know Christmas, and decorations in supermarkets and department stor es are as obvious as in any Western country, if not more. Some Japanese people b uy a Xmas tree and decorate their house, but they are not the majority. Christmas is just like another Valentine's Day for many. It is common for (young ) couples to go have a romantic dinner or go to the cinema. Japanese do not have a family party like Westerners. This is reserved for the New Year. Public Holidays Japan has 13 public holidays. When one of them falls on a Sunday, it is reported to the following Monday. # # # # # # # # # # # # # 1 January - (New Year's Day) Second Monday of January - (Adult's Day) 11 February - (National Foundation Day) 21 March (approx.) - (Vernal Equinox Day) 29 April - (Green Day) 3 May - (Constitution Day) 5 May - (Children's Day) 15 September - (Respect-for-the-Aged Day) 22 September (approx.) - (Autumnal Equinox Day) 10 October - (Sports Day) 3 November - (Culture Day) 23 November - (Labour Thanksgiving Day) 23 December - (Emperor's Birthday)