Information for Daily Life  Special Events and Holidays in Japan

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Holidays

1st January New Year’s Day 3rd Monday
of July
Marine Day
2nd Monday
of January
Coming-of-Age Day 11th August Mountain Day
11th February Foundation Day 3rd Monday
of September
Respect for the Aged Day
21st March (approx.) Vernal Equinox Day 23rd September (approx.) Autumn Equinox Day
29th April Showa Day 2nd Monday
of October
Health and Sports Day
3rd May Constitution Day 3rd November Culture Day
4th May Greenery Day 23rd November Labor Thanksgiving Day
5th May Children’s Day 23rd December The Emperor’s Birthday

Special Events

New Year - Shogatsu Although Shogatsu means the month of January, New Year is generally only celebrated for the first three days or for the first week. People pray for happiness in the New Year by making their first trip of the year to a shrine or temple (hatsumode), and New Year’s pine and bamboo decorations (kadomatsu), sacred straw festoon (shimekazari) and round mirror-shaped rice cakes (kagamimochi) are set out. People read their New Year’s cards (nengajyo) and there is the custom of giving New Year’s money (otoshidama) to children.
Coming-of-Age Day - Seijin-no-hi On the second Monday of January, Coming-of-Age ceremonies are held to wish happiness to those who have turned twenty years old. Many women attend in their best attire, which is usually a long-sleeved kimono. From the age of twenty, people can vote as well as smoking and drinking of alcohol being permitted.
The Eve of the First Day of Spring - Setsubun Setsubun falls on about the 3rd of February, the day before spring is considered to begin. On the evening of this day, people scatter soy beans both inside and outside their homes while yelling, “Out with the devil! In with happiness!”. To pray for good health for the year, there is also the custom of eating the same number of soy beans as one’s age.
Doll's Festival - Hina-matsuri The 3rd March witnesses a festival to pray for the happiness and growth of girls. Families with girls display dolls and other items such as rice cake cubes and diamond-shaped rice cakes.
Vernal Equinox Day - Shunbun-no-hi Vernal Equinox Day occurs on about 21st March, when the length of the day and night are equal. The seven-day period of the Vernal Equinox day and the three days before and after it are designated as Spring Equinoctial Week (Haru-no-Higan).
Equinoctial Week - Higan Higan occur twice a year and are the seven-day periods surrounding the Vernal and Autumn Equinox Days. In Buddhist terminology, higan means “the other side of the river that the dead cross”. Many people visit graves to comfort the spirits of their ancestors.
Children's Day - Kodomo-no-hi The 5th May is the day that marks the growing up of boys. Homes with boys in them display dolls and fly carp streamers (koi-nobori). Chimaki (dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves) and Kashiwa-mochi (rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves) are eaten.
The Star Festival - Tanabata The Star Festival occurs on 7th July. People write their wishes on strips of poetry paper of various colors, hang them off bamboo leaves and then decorate their gardens with them. The cities of Sendai and Hiratsuka hold large-scale Tanabata festivals.
Moon Viewing - Tsukimi There is a custom of appreciating the full moon, held on 15th August of the lunar calendar. Moon-viewing dumplings (tsukimi dango), pampas grass and seasonal fruits are laid out.
Autumn Equinox Day - Shubun-no-hi The Autumn Equinox Day falls around the 23rd September. Many people visit graves during the seven-day higan, that the Autumn Equinox Day falls in the middle of.
Health and Sports Day - Taiku-no-hi The second Monday of October is Health and Sports Day. It commemorates the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and aims to nurture physical and mental health as well as bringing people closer together through sport.
Seven-Five-Three - Shichi-go-san 15th November is the day to pray for the growth of children. Usually the celebrations involve boys of ages three and five, and girls of ages three and seven. Parents and children dressed in the best attire visit temples.
New Year's Eve - Omisoka The last day of the year. In order to welcome in the New Year, a large-scale cleaning of homes takes place. When the clock strikes twelve, watch-night bells (jyoya-no-kane) ring out at temples all over Japan.