Calendar of Japanese Events – November & December Edition –
Japan holds festivities and celebrations according to the season. This article introduces events that occur from November to December.
Tori no Ichi (Day of the Bird)
The “Tori no Ichi” Festival held in November is a lively fair that is celebrated at Otori shrines all over Japan. It is held at over 30 places in the Kanto region, centering on Tokyo. Among these, the most famous ones in Tokyo would be the Otori Shrine at Adachi Ward, the Otori Shrine at Taito Ward, and the Hanazono Shrine at Shinjuku Ward. The Otori Shrine in Sakai City, Osaka, is extremely popular as well.
Its origins lie in the Edo period (1603 – 1867), back when farmers used to offer up chickens to celebrate the autumn harvest. Tori no Hi comes around every 12 days, and depending on the year, it may be celebrated up to 3 times. The first time is called “Ichi no Tori”, the second “Ni no Tori”, and the third “San no Tori”.
The decoration shown in the picture is a bamboo rake, which is a symbol of good business. You may purchase this at the event.
Dates for 2017: November 6 (Monday), November 18 (Saturday), November 30 (Thursday)
This festivity celebrates the growth and health of children turning 7 (shichi), 5 (go), and 3 (san) years old. However, this differs depending on your gender. Girls will celebrate at the ages of 3 and 7, while boys celebrate at 3 and 5. Back in the day, people celebrated depending on their age as it was calculated during that time (add 1 year to your actual age), but people have now adapted to the modern way of counting ages, which considers how old you will be the year you are celebrating.
This is usually celebrated on November 15, but in recent years, it has been celebrated any time from mid-October to late November. You may notice certain differences depending on the region, but children will typically wear formal dress and pay a visit to a shrine. Furthermore, families take commemorative photos at studios and dine together at restaurants.
Kids usually hold "Chitose Ame" in photos, which refers to so-called "1,000-year-old candy". This long candy stick is placed inside a bag with a print of cranes, turtles, and sho-chiku-bai (pine, bamboo, and plum trees). These are considered lucky symbols to pray for the longevity of the children.
Japan has 24 solar terms that describe the sun’s position throughout the year. Toji (Winter Solstice) is the solar term that refers to the date when the sun is lowest in the sky. The exact date differs each year, but it is usually celebrated around the 21st of December.
It has long been a tradition to eat squash and bathe in water surrounded by yuzu (Japanese citrus). It is said that eating squash during this time helps to ward off evil and colds. Furthermore, the fragrance from yuzu baths is said to ward off malice, bring in fortune, and ensure sound health. You may also find yuzu baths if you go to a public bath during the Winter Solstice.
Date in 2017: December 22 (Friday)
Christmas is celebrated on December 25 in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Though it originally had a religious connotation, it is now celebrated casually in Japan. In Western countries, it is common to spend this day with one’s family, but in Japan, people spend this day with their significant other or throw parties with friends.
Japanese people usually celebrate with Christmas cake, which is normally a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries on top. People will usually eat chicken rather than turkey, which is sold at fast food joints.
New Year's Eve
Japan celebrates New Year's Eve (O-misoka) on the 31st of December. “Misoka” refers to the final day of each month. When you attach “O” to it, it refers to the final day of the whole year – certainly a special way of concluding the year!
It is customary to eat Toshikoshi soba (year-passing noodles) on this day, as it is easy to cut in comparison to other types of noodles, which helps "cut off" malice and hazards. Its thinness and length symbolize longevity.
On this day, you will hear the sound of the Joya no Kane (New Year's Eve Bell) at temples nationwide, which rings 108 times. 108 is the number of earthly desires in Buddhism, and the ringing of the bell symbolizes getting rid of these desires. Depending on the temple, you may join in the celebration without prior reservation. However, please keep in mind that not all temples will accept on-the-spot visitors. Many require reservations or will distribute numbers on the day itself, so it is important to check ahead of time!
All the events included in this article are held from fall to winter. Learn more about Japan's culture in order to enjoy your trip to the fullest!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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