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Archive for the 'Japanese Holidays' Category

Nyūgakushiki: The School Entrance Ceremony in Japan

The school entrance ceremony in Japan, or Nyūgakushiki in Japanese, is one of the most momentous occasions in a student’s life, and it takes place each year as the cherry blossoms bloom.

In this article, you’ll learn all about this celebratory season and gain some new vocabulary along the way.

Let’s get started!

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1. What is the School Entrance Ceremony?

The Japanese school entrance ceremony name is Nyūgakushiki.

Nyūgakushiki is a time of both encouragement and excitement about the coming year for students in every grade, though the Japanese high school entrance ceremony may be the most exciting for new students.

During a school entrance ceremony, Japanese students celebrate their enrollment in a school, and that enrollment is also authorized. A school entrance ceremony, or 入学式 (にゅうがくしき), can take place for enrollment in schools of any education level. Thus, there is a Japanese elementary school entrance ceremony, one for middle school, another for high school, and even enrollment ceremonies for universities and vocational schools.

2. When are the Entrance Ceremonies?

Mt. Fuji During the Springtime

The school entrance ceremonies typically take place in early April, not long after the graduation ceremonies in late March.

3. A Japanese School Entrance Ceremony

Japanese Parents Standing with Their Children for a School Entrance Ceremony

As mentioned, in Japan, school entrance ceremony season takes place after the graduation ceremonies near the end of March. During a graduation ceremony, graduating students are awarded a school certificate; in universities and graduate schools, students receive a diploma. The graduation ceremonies in Japan are very formal; men wear nice suits, while females who are graduating must wear traditional kimono and hakama.

For the school entrance ceremony, Japanese students going into high school wear their brand-new uniforms and participate in the welcoming ceremony. From elementary school to high school, the homeroom teacher calls each new student, who the principal then offers words of encouragement and support. Afterward, a student chosen as a representative makes a pledge concerning their new school life. For sentimental reasons, someone may also take a photograph of the new class together.

Sometimes, there may be a 来賓挨拶 (らいひんあいさつ), or “speech by a guest of honor,” for the ceremony.

4. Two Important Songs

Do you know what Japanese students sing at each school entrance ceremony?

There are actually two things they can sing. During a ceremony, there is a time for 校歌斉唱 (こうかせいしょう), or “singing of school song.” Students also sing the 国歌 (こっか), or “national anthem.”

5. Essential Japanese Vocabulary for School Entrance Ceremonies

Someone Playing the Piano for the Japanese National Anthem

Are you ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a list of the most important Japanese words and phrases for the school entrance ceremony season!

  • 春 (はる) — “spring”
  • 式 (しき) — “ceremony”
  • 入学式 (にゅうがくしき) — “school entrance ceremony”
  • 学校行事 (がっこう ぎょうじ) — “school event”
  • 新入生 (しんにゅうせい) — “new student”
  • 国旗 (こっき) — “national flag”
  • 国歌 (こっか) — “national anthem”
  • 在校生 (ざいこうせい) — “current student”
  • 歓迎の言葉 (かんげいのことば) — “words of welcome”
  • 来賓挨拶 (らいひんあいさつ) — “speech by a guest of honor”
  • 校歌斉唱 (こうかせいしょう) — “singing of school song”

To hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our Japanese School Entrance Ceremony vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Nyūgakushiki with us, and that you took away some valuable cultural information.

Do you have a special school entrance ceremony in your country? If so, how do you celebrate or participate in it? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

If you’re fascinated with Japanese culture and can’t get enough, we recommend that you check out the following pages on JapanesePod101.com:

That should be enough to quench your thirst for Japanese cultural knowledge for a little while, but for the full learning experience and more fun resources, create your free lifetime account today. JapanesePod101.com has tons of learning resources for learners at every level, so there’s something for everyone.

We look forward to having you!

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Celebrating Hinamatsuri: The Japanese Doll Festival

Hinamatsuri (Japanese Doll Festival) is a special Japanese holiday dedicated to praying for the well-being of little girls. This holiday is unique to the Japanese culture, and is steeped in both traditional and modern cultural values and beliefs.

In this article, you’ll learn many interesting Japanese Doll Festival facts, from the holiday’s origins to how it’s celebrated today. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

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1. What is the Japanese Traditional Doll Festival?

The Japanese Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri), unique to Japan, is a festival that prays for the healthy growth of little girls.

The history of Hinamatsuri goes back a long way. It’s said that the hihina (or hiina) play, which involved making little dolls out of paper or earth and dressing them in clothes, and which went on over a thousand years ago, was the prototype of the modern-day Hinamatsuri.

Gradually, this evolved into a custom called Nagashibina, which was to pray for sound health. During Nagashibina, these dolls were used as substitutes for real people, had people’s bad luck transferred to them, and were sent floating down the river.

After this, with the passing of time, it became typical for the dolls to be displayed and admired indoors, as they are today, as mamori-hina. The mamori-hina watch over the happiness and growth of the daughter of the house.

A girl’s first Doll Festival is referred to as 初節句 (hatsuzekku). For this celebration, the maternal grandparents often give a set of dolls. With this gift, they place a wish that the doll will be used as a scapegoat so that their cute granddaughter will not suffer from disaster.

2. Japanese Doll Festival Date

Peach Blossoms

Each year, the Doll’s Festival takes place on March 3. If you match it to the old Japanese calendar, Hinamatsuri takes place when the peach trees are blooming.

3. Japanese Doll Festival Activities and Displays

People display a set of graceful dolls in ancient court costumes on a tier of five to seven shelves, which is called 雛人形 (Hina Ningyō). The dolls are arranged as follows:

  • Emperor and Empress Dolls: Called 内裏雛 (だいりびな), these are displayed on the top shelf. Generally, the emperor doll is placed on the left side and the empress doll on the right. This custom also influences weddings—the groom sits on the left, and the bride on the right. Gold folding screens are arranged behind the emperor and empress dolls on a red felt carpet.
  • Three Court Ladies: Called 三人官女 (さんにんかんじょ), these are displayed on the second tier from the top. The court ladies care for the emperor and empress.
  • Five Court Musicians: Called 五人囃子 (ごにんばやし), these are displayed on the third tier from the top. The musicians are often depicted playing different musical instruments for the amusement of the emperor and empress.

People usually display the dolls a few weeks in advance of March 3. Some dolls are exquisite and have seven or eight layers of decoration. The value of such dolls can be more than 500,000 yen (or over $4,500). There are also popular compact types that can be decorated easily and stored in apartments and rental housing.

On the Doll Festival, these dolls are offered 菱餅 (hishimochi), or “diamond-shaped rice cakes,” and ひなあられ (hina-arare), or “sweet rice crackers.” A celebration is then held in front of the dolls, during which people consume lots of Japanese Doll Festival food and drinks. These include 白酒 (しろざけ), or “white sake,” and a meal of chirashizushi and clam soup.

It is said that it’s best to put away the dolls as soon as the festival is over. This is because of the saying “late to clear away then late to marry.” Some believe that “a daughter who cannot clean will not become a good bride.”

4. Momo no Sekku

Do you know which flower is used for Doll’s Festival decorations, and why?

The correct answer is a “peach blossom.” Peach blossoms bloom from the end of March to the beginning of April of the lunar calendar, just around the time of the Doll’s Festival. For this reason, the festival is also known as 桃の節句 (Momo no Sekku) or “Peach Seasonal Festival.”

In the past, peaches were believed to have the power to purge evil spirits. Therefore, peach blossoms are used as decorations for the Doll’s Festival to obtain the protection of peaches and help girls grow up healthy. 

5. Must-Know Vocab for the Japanese Doll’s Festival

Japanese Emperor and Empress Dolls

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a list of the essential vocabulary words you’ll need to talk about the Doll Festival in Japanese!

  • ひな祭り (ひなまつり) — “Doll Festival”
  • 白酒 (しろざけ) — “white sake”
  • 三人官女 (さんにんかんじょ) — “three court ladies”
  • 桃の花 (もものはな) — “peach blossom”
  • ぼんぼり (ぼんぼり) — “paper lamp”
  • 右大臣 (うだいじん) — “minister of the right”
  • 左大臣 (さだいじん) — “minister of the left”
  • お雛様 (おひなさま) — “hina doll”
  • 雛あられ (ひなあられ) — “hina arare
  • 金屏風 (きんびょうぶ) — “gold screen”
  • 五人囃子 (ごにんばやし) — “five court musicians”
  • 女雛 (めびな) — “empress doll”
  • 男雛 (おびな) — “emperor doll”
  • 内裏雛 (だいりびな) — “emperor and empress dolls”
  • 菱餅 (ひしもち) — “diamond-shaped rice cake”
  • 蛤のお吸い物 (はまぐりのおすいもの) — “clear broth soup with clams”
  • ちらし寿司 (ちらしずし) — “chirashi-zushi”

To hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read them alongside relevant images, visit our Japanese Doll’s Festival vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Japanese Doll Festival with us! Are there any similar holidays in your country, or is this holiday very new to you? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning more about the unique Japanese culture and holidays, you can visit the following pages on JapanesePod101.com:

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Kenkoku Kinen no Hi: Japan’s National Foundation Day

Japan is a country steeped in a rich history and fascinating culture, both of which the Japanese people reflect on each year on 建国記念日 (けんこくきねんび), or National Foundation Day in Japanese. This is a major holiday in Japan, celebrating the beginning of the country’s history. In this article, you’ll learn all about Japan’s National Foundation Day, from its origins to modern-day celebrations and traditions.

Are you ready to dive in? Let’s get started!

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1. What is National Foundation Day in Japan?

National Foundation Day is a day to commemorate the founding of the country and cultivate a love for it. It’s celebrated on the day the first Emperor of Japan was crowned as the “Day that Japanese history began.” This national holiday was first celebrated during the Meiji Era, where it was known as Kigensetsu.

While many countries celebrate Foundation Day on the date that they became independent, Japan is different. In the past, Japan was ruled by an Emperor. The lineage of many generations of Emperors can be traced back to times of mythology thousands of years ago. The first Emperor was crowned by God with the purpose of expanding her realm, and has been respected by the Japanese people since ancient times. This is why Foundation Day is celebrated on the day that the first Emperor was crowned—the beginning of 日本の歴史 (にほんのれきし), or Japanese history.

2. Foundation Day Date

Japanese Flag Waving in the Wind

Each year, National Foundation Day in Japan takes place on February 11.

3. How Does Japan Celebrate National Foundation Day?

On National Foundation Day, Japan holds events such as political lectures, symposia, and gatherings throughout the country. The Emperor system has its controversies, with opinions being divided in recent years about it following the female line. The National Foundation Day is an opportunity to hear the views of experts on the state of the country, and to deepen one’s own thoughts.

Starting with the Meiji Jingu, which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, there are shrines that hold festivals for events such as National Foundation Festivals and Kigensai. There are a variety of festivals held that involve doing things such as pulling a portable shrine and playing drum and pipe music through a spectacular parade.

While remembering the many ancestors who were instrumental in the development of Japan for thousands of years since ancient times, people make wishes that the country will be even more prosperous in the future.

4. First Emperor of Japan

Who was the first Emperor of Japan, or 初代天皇 (しょだいてんのう)?

The correct answer is Emperor Jinmu. According to the Nihon Shoki, Emperor Jinmu was crowned on Lunar New Year’s Day of 660 B.C., or February 11 on the solar calendar. The Nihon Shoki is a book that was compiled at the beginning of the eighth century and is the oldest history book in Japan. In the book, it’s recorded that Emperor Jinmu was born with intelligence and a strong will.

Did you know that Japan has a unique way for counting years? It’s called the Kōki and starts counting from the year of the coronation of Emperor Jinmu. The first year in the Imperial Era was 660 B.C.

5. Essential Vocabulary for National Foundation Day

Japanese People Celebrating National Foundation Day

Ready to study some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a list of the most important words and phrases for National Foundation Day!

  • 祝日 (しゅくじつ) — “holiday”
  • 建国 (けんこく) — “founding of a nation”
  • 日本書紀 (にほんしょき) — “Chronicles of Japan”
  • 神武天皇 (じんむてんのう) — “Emperor Jimmu”
  • 即位 (そくい) — “coronation”
  • 日本の歴史 (にほんのれきし) — “Japanese history”
  • 初代天皇 (しょだいてんのう) — “first emperor of Japan”
  • 建国記念日 (けんこくきねんび) — “National Foundation Day”
  • 歴史 (れきし) — “history”
  • 紀元節 (きげんせつ) — “Empire Day”
  • 公布 (こうふ) — “promulgation”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our Japanese National Foundation Day vocabulary list! You can also watch the video above to learn more essential vocabulary with Risa!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Foundation Day in Japan is a unique holiday that pays tribute to the country’s history and early beginnings, while simultaneously encouraging people to look ahead to the future. Does your country have a similar holiday? Let us know in the comments section!

If you’re interested in continuing to learn about Japanese culture and holidays, you may find the following pages useful:

Whatever your reasons for wanting to learn more about Japanese culture or the language, know that JapanesePod101.com is the best place to expand your knowledge and improve your language skills. With tons of lessons for beginners, intermediate learners, and more advanced students, there’s something for everyone!

What are you waiting for? Create your free lifetime account today and gain access to everything you could possibly want to know about Japan!

Happy learning! 🙂

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Bunka no hi: Celebrating Culture Day in Japan

Bunka no hi, celebrated each year in November, is a relatively new Japanese cultural holiday that has experienced some adaptations over time. Originating during the reign of Emperor Meiji, and originally called Meijisetsu, this holiday was a day for Japan to celebrate the birth of its emperor until 1948.

In this article, you’ll learn the most pertinent facts about Culture Day in Japan: activities, meaning, and what role the Constitution of Japan played in evolving the holiday into what it is today.

At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make every aspect of your learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Culture Day in Japan?

Culture Day is a Japanese national holiday for appreciating peace and freedom, and was originally put in place to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Meiji. The entire week from November 1 to November 7 is designated as Education and Culture Week, with a focus on Culture Day. Various events such as public lectures and hands-on activities are held, and admission to art galleries and museums is free.

2. When is Culture Day?

November Holiday

On November 3, Culture Day in Japan is celebrated. Later in this article, you’ll discover why this date in particular was chosen. 😉

3. Japan Culture Day Events & Celebrations

On Culture Day, Japan puts on events with a deep connection to culture. For example, at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, a Fall Festival is held which is dedicated to traditional arts such as Bugaku and horseback archery. In Asakusa in Tokyo, and in Shiga Prefecture, parades are held in which people dress in costumes from different eras to demonstrate Japan’s history. In Kanagawa Prefecture, a reenactment of the Daimyo’s Procession from the Edo era is also held. Events such as these provide the opportunity to once again look at the culture that has been passed down through the ages.

At the Imperial Palace, an Order of Culture Ceremony is held. During this culture award ceremony, people who have made remarkable achievements in the development and improvement of science, technology, culture, and the arts are awarded a medal. In recent years, world-renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa, leading architect Tadao Ando, and famous fashion designer Issey Miyake have all been honored. Images of the emperor personally presenting the awards always appear on the news.

For National Culture Day, Japanese arts festivals sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs are also held. During this time, those with a proven track record of excellence in the performing arts give performances. In addition to this, from all of the participating performances and works of art, including those approved by the Executive Committee, a grand prize, excellence award, and newcomer award are presented to those who have made great contributions to the promotion of art and culture.

4. The Japanese Constitution & Culture Day

Child Doing Crafts

Do you know which law caused this holiday to be known as Culture Day?

The answer is the Japanese constitution. The constitution was proclaimed on November 3, 1946. Because of its focus on peace and culture, the anniversary of the proclamation of the constitution was designated Culture Day.

Incidentally, the Japanese constitution was actually enacted six months later, on May 3. This is also a holiday, known as Constitution Day.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Bunka No Hi in Japan

Couple Looking at Painting

  • 劇場
    げきじょう
    Theater
  • 十一月
    じゅういちがつ
    November
  • 美術館
    びじゅつかん
    Art museum
  • 美術館
    びじゅつかん
    Museum
  • 文化の日
    ぶんかのひ
    Culture Day
  • 文化
    ぶんか
    Culture
  • 休日
    きゅうじつ
    Day off
  • 文化勲章
    ぶんかくんしょう
    The Order of Culture
  • 明治天皇
    めいじてんのう
    Emperor Meiji
  • 授業参観
    じゅぎょうさんかん
    Class observation day
  • 工作
    こうさく
    Craft
  • 文化祭
    ぶんかさい
    Cultural festival

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, and see each one accompanied by a relevant image, be sure to check out our Japanese Culture Day vocabulary list!

Parting Words…

We hope you enjoyed learning about Bunka no hi with us, and that you took away something valuable from this lesson.

Does your country have a cultural holiday? If so, how do you celebrate it? Let us know in the comments; we always love to hear from you!

Learning about a country’s culture may be the most enriching and exciting aspect of trying to master a language. If you want to continue delving into Japanese culture, you may be interested in the following pages:

We know that learning Japanese isn’t easy, but at JapanesePod101.com, we do everything we can to make it fun! You really can master the language and come to understand Japanese culture, and we’ll be here with help and encouragement on each step of your language-learning journey!

Happy learning!

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Taiiku No Hi: Health and Sports Day in Japan

From time to time, we all need to reevaluate our health—our dietary habits, our exercise patterns (or lack thereof), and our ability to live each day well. On Health and Sports Day, the people of Japan do just this. This holiday encourages and inspires good health and more exercise at every level of society, but most especially for children and young adults.

In this article, you’ll learn about Health-Sports Day in Japan and how it affects the health and lives of people all over the country.

At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Health and Sports Day in Japan?

Health and Sports Day is a national Japanese holiday dedicated to inspiring a love of sports, exercise, and good health. Further, people are encouraged to think about the role of exercise and health in their daily lives.

Do you know what event inspired the creation of Health-Sports Day?

The correct answer is the Tokyo Olympics. On October 10, 1964, the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games was held in great fanfare.

To commemorate this event, two years later, from 1966, October 10 became a national holiday to mark Sports Day. After this, since 2000, and in line with the Happy Monday System, Sports Day was moved to the second Monday of October. This means that every year, many people get to enjoy the feeling of playing sports under a fine autumn sky.

2. When is Japanese Health Sports Day?

Many Sports Items

Each year, Japan celebrates Health-Sports Day on the second Monday of October. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2019: October 14
  • 2020: October 12
  • 2021: October 11
  • 2022: October 10
  • 2023: October 9
  • 2024: October 14
  • 2025: October 13
  • 2026: October 12
  • 2027: October 11
  • 2028: October 9

3. Celebrating Sports Day in Japan

On National Health and Sports Day, Japanese kindergartens, schools, companies, and regional organizations across the country hold events such as track meets. On top of relays and races, other more game-like events such as toss-ball, tug of war, and scavenger hunts, are also held.

There are also events such as sports festivals, physical fitness tests, and marathons, which the entire family can participate in. On Health and Sports Day, Japanese people can enjoy the autumn season, which is known in Japan as the season for sports.

At kindergarten and elementary school sports events, families also run in order to support their running child. A common sight on Health Sports Day in Japan is that of fathers holding video cameras, lined up in the best position for taking a video while cheering loudly through the viewfinder. The sight of children running with all their might is very cute and is sure to make anyone cheer excitedly. At lunchtime, the children eat lunch with their families.

Each municipality also organizes a sports event for Health and Sports Day in Japan. These include events where parents and children can enjoy Frisbee, bowling, and marathons. Some places also offer health assessments for adults to raise awareness of their own lack of exercise.

On Health-Sports Day, Japanese amateur teams in sports such as soccer and baseball form inter-league games and have fun while breaking a sweat.

4. Fine Weather, Indeed

Two People Jogging

Statistically, this day has a high likelihood of having good weather. According to the statistics, in the thirty-four years since Sports Day was first held on October 10, there has been a more than eighty-five percent chance of no rain in Tokyo.

5. Essential Vocabulary for Health-Sports Day in Japan

Taking Care of Health

Here’s some essential vocabulary you should know to talk about Health and Sports Day in Japanese!

  • スポーツ (スポーツ) — sports
  • ジョギング (ジョギング) — jogging
  • 体育の日 (たいいくのひ) — Health-Sports Day
  • 運動 (うんどう) — exercise
  • 健康 (けんこう) — health
  • 運動会 (うんどうかい) — sports festival
  • 体力測定 (たいりょく そくてい) — measurement of physical fitness
  • 運動不足 (うんどうぶそく) — lack of exercise
  • スポーツに親しむ (スポーツにしたしむ) — familiar with sports
  • スポーツの秋 (スポーツのあき) — Autumn is the season for sports.
  • 1964年夏季オリンピック (1964ねん かきオリンピック) — 1964 Summer Olympics

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, alongside relevant images, check out our Japanese Health-Sports Day vocabulary list!

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

We hope you enjoyed learning about Health-Sports Day in Japan with us, and learned something new.

Are there any holidays or special events in your country to encourage better health? Tell us about it in the comments; we love hearing from you!

To continue learning about Japanese culture and the language, explore JapanesePod101.com. We provide an array of fun and effective learning tools for every learner, at every level:

  • Insightful blog posts on a range of cultural and language-related topics
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At JapanesePod101, we know that you can master the language and culture of beautiful Japan. We care about your learning experience, and will be here with help and guidance every step of the way!

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Tanabata: The Star Festival in Japan – Vega and Altair’s Love Story

Do you know why the Japanese focus on the Altair and Vega stars one night a year? This has to do with the Tanabata story, which tells about the love between a cow-herder and a weaver (we’ll give you the full story later in this article!).

During the Star Festival, Japan sets its eyes to the night sky and the Milky Way, hoping that the two constellations, which represent the cow-herder and weaver, will meet.

The Star Festival Japan celebrates offers a fun and unique glance at Japanese culture and thought. Learning about the Tanabata Festival is a wonderful way to improve your language skills, too, as knowing a country’s culture is key to mastering its language!

At JapanesePod101.com, we want to make this learning journey both fun and informative for you!

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1. What is the Japanese Star Festival?

According to the legend, this is the one day a year that 織姫 (Orihime), meaning “the weaving princess,” and 彦星 (Hikoboshi), meaning “the cow herder,” can spend together. On this night, the Japanese people are more concerned about the weather than on any other night, as the weather dictates whether or not the two can see each other.

2. When is the Tanabata Festival?

July 7 is the Star Festival

The Star Festival, or 七夕 (Tanabata), means “the evening of the seventh,” and is celebrated on July 7th each year. This day has been celebrated in Japan since the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), and because of differences between the Lunar and Gregorian calendars, Tanabata festivals are actually held on both July 7th and August 7th.

3. How is Tanabata Celebrated?

China, Vietnam, and Korea have their own versions of the Star Festival, but in Japan, people write wishes on strips of paper and hang them up on bamboo leaves along with decorations shaped like stars and such. Among the wishes written by the children at preschools and elementary schools, there are sometimes those that say, in shaky, just-learned letters, “I wish that Orihime and Hikoboshi can meet each other.” Isn’t that cute?

The most famous festival is held in Sendai from the fifth to the eight of August. Near Tokyo, in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, the largest festival in the Kanto area is held for a few days around July 7th.

At these festivals, people gather on the main street where there are decorations, food stalls, and sometimes entertainment, including music and dancing. The common traditional food of Tanabata includes たこ焼き (takoyaki), 焼きそば (yakisoba), and cold beer.

There is also a well-known song that is sung during Tanabata, 笹の葉・ささのは・sasa no ha, which means “bamboo leaves.”

4. The Tanabata Story

Star Festival Event

So, what is the Japanese Star Festival story? Well…

A long time ago, Orihime, the daughter of the King of Heaven, and Hikoboshi, a cattle herd, fell in love. Orihime’s work was to weave at the loom, while Hikoboshi’s job was to take care of the cattle. Both were extremely hard-working, so the King of Heaven gave them permission to be married.

However, both Orihime and Hikoboshi enjoyed married life so much that as soon as they were married, they stopped working. Angered, the King of Heaven put the Milky Way between Orihime and Hikoboshi, separating them. But, feeling some pity for the two, the King of Heaven permitted them to meet just once a year, at the Star Festival.

The Milky Way has no bridge, but when the Star Festival comes around, birds called European magpies suddenly come flying out of nowhere, and build a bridge for the two of them…

And this is the story of the Star Festival.

So why do people care about the weather on the night of the Star Festival, you ask? Because if it rains, the volume of water in the Milky Way rises, so the European magpies can’t build a bridge, meaning that Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t meet each other.

5. Vocab You Need to Know for the Star Festival

Orihime

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for the Japanese Star Festival!

  • アルタイル (アルタイル) — Altair
  • ベガ (ベガ) — Vega
  • 天の川 (あまのがわ) — Milky Way
  • 七夕 (たなばた) — Star Festival
  • 浴衣 (ゆかた) — Yukata
  • 装飾 (そうしょく) — Decoration
  • 織姫 (おりひめ) — Orihime
  • 願い事 (ねがいごと) — Wish
  • 短冊 (たんざく) — Small piece of paper
  • 7月7日 (しちがつ なのか) — July 7th
  • 彦星 (ひこぼし) — Hikoboshi
  • 笹 (ささ) — Bamboo leaf
  • 笹飾り (ささかざり) — Bamboo decoration

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, check out our Japanese Star Festival vocabulary list!

Conclusion

What do you think about the Japanese Star Festival and its story? Did you learn anything new today? Let us know in the comments; we always love to hear from you!

To continue learning about Japanese culture and the language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com! We provide fun and practical learning tools for every learner, including free Japanese vocabulary lists and more insightful blog posts like this one! You can also take advantage of our online community forums to chat with fellow students or ask for help! By upgrading to a Premium Plus account, you can start relishing in the benefits of our MyTeacher program, which allows you to learn Japanese one-on-one with your own teacher!

Continue studying and practicing, and you’ll be speaking, reading, and writing Japanese like a native before you know it. And JapanesePod101 will be here with you on each step of this journey!

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Chichi No Hi: How to Celebrate Fathers Day in Japan

What day is Father’s Day, and what do Japanese traditions look like?

Fathers Day in Japan (known by the Japanese as 父の日 or Chichi No Hi), is similar to Father’s Day in other countries. It’s simply a day to honor one’s father or father-figure, and to show him appreciation and gratitude for all he does.

However, for each aspect of Father’s Day that’s familiar around the world, there’s a distinction that makes it uniquely Japanese. In this article, we’ll be going over common Fathers Day traditions in Japan, from the most popular gifts to its stance next to Mother’s Day.

At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make this lesson both fun and informative as we examine Japanese culture from the perspective of Chichi No Hi. After all, any successful language-learner can tell you the importance of comprehending a country’s culture in mastering its language.

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1. What is Japanese Father’s Day?

In Japan, Father’s Day is called Chichi No Hi, with chichi meaning one’s own father. The Japanese version of this holiday is similar to versions around the world; Father’s Day is a time to let your father (or father-figure) know how much he means to you.

Just like in many other countries, Father’s Day tends to fall in the shadows of Mother’s Day, however. A Japanese mother is more likely to receive gifts and affection on Mother’s Day than a father is on Father’s Day.

2. When is Father’s Day in Japan?

Father's Day is on a Sunday

So, when is Fathers Day celebrated in Japan?

The date of Father’s Day varies each year, though it always takes place on the third Sunday of June. For your convenience, we’ve prepared a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2019: June 16
  • 2020: June 21
  • 2021: June 20
  • 2022: June 19
  • 2023: June 18
  • 2024: June 16
  • 2025: June 15
  • 2026: June 21
  • 2027: June 20
  • 2028: June 18

3. How Do the Japanese Celebrate Father’s Day?

A Father with His Daughter and Wife

On Fathers Day, Japan celebrates and shows thankfulness toward fathers, though traditions tend to be profit-oriented. (As seems to be true in the majority of participating countries.)

That said, the most common way that children in Japan show their fathers gratitude is through gift-giving. Gifts tend to be food- or alcohol-related, with Japanese steaks (wagyuu) and traditional alcoholic beverages like sake being the most popular and well-received. A nice family meal is always appreciated, as well.

Other Father’s Day gifts and Father’s Day gift ideas include greeting cards, thank you notes, cash and gift cards, and origami creations. Some children also choose to gift their fathers with flowers at the beginning of the day.

Japanese Father’s Day celebrations don’t typically go beyond gift-giving, which is one way that traditions are unique here. For example, in the United States, spending quality time with one’s father is a popular tradition, and this isn’t the case here.

4. Father’s Day Gifts: The Universal Struggle

We all struggle with Fathers Day ideas. No matter how well we know our dads or how well we get along with them, getting them a gift they’ll actually like is difficult. This struggle exists in Japan, as well.

According to SoraNews24, there’s a huge disconnect in Japan concerning what fathers want on their special day. Children (and entire families) tend to give their fathers more expensive gifts, like the Japanese steaks, when their fathers would actually better appreciate something inexpensive and from the heart—like a thoughtful note of gratitude, or even a little bit of quality time with their children.

5. Useful Vocabulary to Celebrate Father’s Day in Japan

Shochu

Here’s some of the most important vocabulary you should know for Father’s Day in Japan!

  • 日曜日 (にちようび) — Sunday
  • ビール (ビール) — Beer
  • お父さん (おとうさん) — Father
  • 息子 (むすこ) — Son
  • 娘 (むすめ) — Daughter
  • 夕食 (ゆうしょく) — Dinner
  • 愛する (あいする) — Love
  • 焼酎 (しょうちゅう) — Shochu
  • プレゼント (プレゼント) — Present
  • 祝う (いわう) — Celebrate
  • ネクタイ (ネクタイ) — Tie
  • 挨拶状 (あいさつじょう) — Greeting card
  • 六月の第三日曜日 (ろくがつの だいさんにちようび) — third Sunday in June
  • 父の日 (ちちのひ) — Father’s Day

To hear each of these Japanese Father’s Day vocabulary words pronounced, check out our relevant vocabulary list. Here, you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.

Conclusion

Does your country celebrate Father’s Day, or a similar holiday honoring fathers? If so, how do you celebrate it? Let us know in the comments! We look forward to hearing from you.

To learn more about Japanese culture and the language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com! We provide practical learning tools for every learner, including insightful blog posts like this one and free Japanese vocabulary lists to expand your word knowledge. You can also listen to our podcasts, chat with fellow Japanese learners on our forums, or upgrade to Premium Plus to take advantage of our MyTeacher program!

Learning—and mastering—a language is a formidable task. But with your hard work and determination, combined with our lessons and support, you’ll be speaking like a native before you know it!

Best wishes, and Happy Fathers Day!

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Golden Week: Celebrate Japanese Children’s Day!

In Japan, Children’s Day is celebrated each year as a way of wishing good health and success for its youth. When it comes to Children’s Day, Japan’s history (and that of ancient China) plays a huge role. While the Children’s Day Festival in Japan was founded on ancient myths and beliefs, many of its traditions remain in place today.

In learning about Children’s Day Japan activities, you’re opening your eyes to new concepts and cultural aspects of the country of your target language. At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make learning about Japanese culture both fun and insightful! So let’s get started on our lesson about the Children’s Day Festival Japan holds each year.

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1. What is Children’s Day in Japan?

The Boys’ Festival is an event that began when the Chinese custom of exorcizing evil spirits with herbs made its way to Japan. In Japan, it has been celebrated as a traditional event since ancient times to pray for the healthy growth of boys. These days, not only boys, but also girls participate in the celebration, which is also known as Children’s Day, a national holiday in Japan.

2. When is Children’s Day?

Children's Day is on May 5

Each year during Golden Week, Japan celebrates Children’s Day on May 5.

3. Reading Practice: How is Children’s Day Celebrated?

Koinobori in Air

How do the Japanese celebrate Children’s Day? Read the Japanese text below to find out, and find the English translation directly below it.

5月5日の端午の節句が近づくと、家の外やベランダ、公園などに、「鯉のぼり」が飾られます。鯉のぼりとは魚の形をした吹き流し(ふきながし)のことです。中国に古い話があります。登竜(とうりゅう)という激しい流れの川を鯉が登ったそうです。そして、そのこいは龍(りゅう)になりました。この話から、「こどもがえらくなりますように」とのねがいをこめて、こいのぼりがかざられるようになりました。たいてい、大小さまざまなサイズの鯉が飾られ、一番大きい鯉はお父さん、次に大きいものはお母さん、小さいものは子供と、家族を表していると言われています。

また、家の中では、「よろい」や「かぶと」をかざります。昔、武士は戦いのとき、身を守るためによろいや兜(かぶと)を身につけました。そこで、男の子の体を守るという意味から、よろいやかぶとを飾るようになったのです。また、「五月(ごがつ)人形」と呼ばれる人形も飾ります。一般的なものには、武士の格好をした男の子や、菱形(ひしがた)の前掛け(まえかけ)をした「金太郎(きんたろう)」があります。

そして、端午の節句には柏餅(かしわもち)を食べます。柏餅はあんこを二つ折りにした餅ではさんで、柏の葉でつつんだ和菓子です。「かしわ」という植物は新しい芽がでるまで古い芽が落ちません。そのことから、「家系がずっと続いていく」、つまり「子孫繁栄(しそんはんえい)」を願って食べられています。

地域によっては「ちまき」も食べられています。ちまきとは中国由来(ゆらい)の食べ物で、笹などの葉でもち米を包んで蒸したもののことです。

As Boys’ Festival on May 5th approaches, the outsides of houses, verandas, parks, and so on are decorated with Koi (“Carp”) Streamers. Koi streamers are streamers made in the shape of a fish. There is an old tale from China that tells of a koi that appeared to have climbed a dangerous river known as Tōryū. This koi then became a dragon. It is from this story that koi streamers came to be decorated alongside wishes for “children to become mighty.” Usually, koi of various sizes are decorated, with the largest koi said to be the father, the next largest the mother, and the smaller koi the children. These koi are said to represent the entire family.

Also, the insides of homes are decorated with armor and helmets. In ancient times, when a samurai would fight, they would wear a helmet and armor to protect themselves. It is from this tradition that helmets and armor became decorations, because they were said to protect the boy’s body. There is also a doll known as a go-gatsu ningyō or “May doll.” Typically, they are boys dressed as samurai, and Kintarō with diamond-shaped aprons.

Kashiwamochi is eaten on Boys’ Festival. Kashiwamochi is a kind of sweet made by stuffing rice cakes with bean paste. The old buds of the kashiwa, or “oak,” do not fall until a new bud appears. They are eaten with the desire that the “family tree will continue forever,” or in other words, for the “prosperity of descendants.”

Some regions also eat chimaki. Chimaki is a food derived from China, which is made by wrapping steamed glutinous rice with leaves, such as bamboo grass.

4. Additional Information: The Iris

There is a special flower for the Boys’ Festival; Japanese use it for celebration just like they do the flower for the Hinamatsuri (“Doll Festival”). Which flower do you think it is?

It’s the iris. The leaves of the iris have a strong fragrance, and people in ancient China believed that this fragrance exorcized evil spirits. The placing of iris into baths for health, and into sake for drinking, formed the beginnings of the Boys’ Festival. These days, there are also families that take baths called shōbuyu meaning “floating iris leaves.”

5. Must-know Vocab

Kabuto

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Children’s Day in Japan!

  • 菖蒲 (しょうぶ) — iris
  • 端午の節句 (たんごのせっく) — Boys’ Day celebration
  • 子供の日 (こどものひ) — Children’s Day
  • 緋鯉 (ひごい) — red carp
  • 五月五日 (ごがつ いつか) — May 5th
  • 鯉のぼり (こいのぼり) — koinobori
  • 柏餅 (かしわもち) — kashiwamochi
  • かぶと (かぶと) — kabuto
  • 五月人形 (ごがつ にんぎょう) — doll for the Boys’ Festival in May
  • 真鯉 (まごい) — black carp
  • 菖蒲湯 (しょうぶゆ) — bath with iris leaves in it
  • 鎧 (よろい) — armor
  • 吹流し (ふきながし) — streamer
  • ちまき (ちまき) — chimaki

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, visit our Japanese Children’s Day vocabulary list, where you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.

Conclusion

What do you think of Japan’s Boys’ Festival celebration? Does your country observe a similar holiday? Tell us about it!

To learn more about the culture in Japan and the Japanese language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com. We provide our students with insightful blog posts on various topics, free vocabulary lists, and even on online community to discuss lessons with fellow Japanese students. And if you prefer a one-on-one learning experience, you can learn Japanese with your own personal Japanese teacher through our MyTeacher program!

Know that all of the hard work you’ve put into your language-learning journey and your strong determination will pay off! You’ll be speaking Japanese before you know it, and JapanesePod101.com will be here for each step on your way there. Best wishes!

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What is White Day in Japan? Celebrate Japanese White Day!

On White Day, which is precisely one month after Valentine’s Day, men return the favor for the chocolates they received on February 14th. Whether the chocolate was given to them out of a sense of obligation or love, men who receive chocolate on Valentine’s Day return the favor by sending gifts including sweets.

Since ancient times, Japan has had a custom in which a person should give something in return for any gift that they receive. This idea is probably unique to Japan, because its people place great importance on honesty and politeness in interpersonal relationships.

Learn more about White Day in Japan to gain a better understanding of the culture. This will also help you learn Japanese in context, which is an absolute must! Let JapanesePod101.com show you all you need to know about White Day in Japan.

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1. What is White Day in Japan?

White Day in Japan is essentially a second Valentine’s Day, and men give women gifts just as they were given gifts on Valentine’s Day a month before. Except they’re supposed to give that gift threefold! No skimping on giving your lady a gift, guys! Common White Day presents include chocolate, flowers, and even jewelry. Of all the Japanese celebrations, White Day may just be the most looked forward to by women!

2. When is White Day in Japan?

March 14 is White Day

Each year on March 14, Japan celebrates White Day—exactly a month after Valentine’s Day. Keep reading for more information on how March 14 (White Day) is celebrated.

3. Reading Practice: How is White Day Celebrated in Japan?

Chocolate and Flower Bouquet

Read the Japanese Kanji text below to learn how White Day is celebrated in Japan. You can find the English translation directly below it.

—–

ホワイトデーを楽しみにしているのは誰かと言えば、もちろん、バレンタインにチョコレートを贈った女性たちですね。愛の告白をした人は、その返事に期待が高まりますし、義理チョコをあげた人も「どんなお返しがもらえるだろう」とワクワクするもの。特に、雑誌やテレビでは「男は三倍返し」と言い、「もらったチョコレートの三倍に値する(あたいする)お返しをすべき」、などと勧めるので、女性たちはホワイトデーを心待ちにしています。
恋人同士、あるいは夫婦の場合、お菓子などの贈り物に加えて、相手の女性が好みそうなアクセサリーなどを一緒にお返しすることも多いです。パートナーとの愛情を確認し合えるイベントの一つとして、またバレンタインデーと切り離せない行事として、ホワイトデーも広く認知(にんち)されています。

—–
The ones who look forward to White Day the most are, naturally, the women who have given chocolate on Valentine’s Day. A person who has professed their love gets very excited about their return gift, and even those who sent chocolate out of a sense of obligation are curious, thinking “what I will get in return?” Magazines and TV shows often announce that “the man should return the gift multiplied by three,” recommending that men give a return gift three times the value of the chocolate they received. Therefore, women really look forward to White Day.

In the case of lovers, or husbands and wives, the lady also often receives some kind of accessory that she may like in addition to sweets. As well as the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day, White Day is widely recognized as an event in which someone can see the affection of their partner.

While there are several theories as to the origin of White Day, it is said that it comes from a long-established candy store in Fukuoka Prefecture that used to sell white marshmallows on March 14th.

4. Additional Information

So, whose idea was White Day?

The confectionery industry’s. As Valentine’s Day became popular, they came up with the idea of having another day for giving a gift in return for the chocolate received on Valentine’s Day. Seeing how chocolate sales increase rapidly as February 14th approaches, they started advertising for people to return the favor on White Day. This idea has slowly caught on, and is now an established tradition.

5. Must-know Vocab

Man Giving Woman Gift

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for White Day in Japan!

  • ありがとう。(ありがとう) — Thank you!
  • お菓子 (おかし) — snack
  • アクセサリー (アクセサリー) — accessory
  • チョコレート (チョコレート) — chocolate
  • バレンタインデー (バレンタインデー) — Valentine’s Day
  • ホワイトデー (ホワイトデー) — White Day
  • デート (デート) — date
  • お返し (おかえし) — reciprocation
  • ギフト (ギフト) — gift
  • 愛 (あい) — love
  • ハート (ハート) — heart
  • 3月14日 (さんがつ じゅうよっか) — March 14th

If you want to hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, check out our Japanese White Day vocabulary list. Here you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio of its pronunciation.

Conclusion

Now you know all about White Day in Japan. What do you think of this idea? Does your country have a similar holiday, where women receive gifts from men? Let us know in the comments!

To learn more about Japanese culture and the language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com and create your own account! We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists, and even an online community to discuss lessons with fellow Japanese learners. You can also check out our MyTeacher program if you’re interested in a one-on-one learning experience with your own personal Japanese teacher!

We hope you enjoyed learning about White Day in Japan. Know that all of your studying and hard work will pay off, and you’ll be speaking Japanese like a native before you know it!

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Setsubun: Celebrate the Japanese Bean-throwing Festival!

Japan is a country with quite a rich culture and history, and the Setsubun Festival reflects this. Find out why the Japanese hold the Bean-throwing Ceremony each year and much more about this holiday’s events with JapanesePod101.com!

After you’ve learned about this holiday, you’ll have gained much insight into Japan as a whole. So let’s get started by finding out what exactly the Setsubun Festival is.

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1. What is Setsubun Day?

Setsubun Day, also known as the Japanese Bean-throwing Festival, is a unique Japanese holiday. Essentially, the Bean-throwing Festival is celebrated as a way of chasing demons away and summoning good fortune.

In ancient times, many believed that evil spirits were born during the changing of the seasons, and these spirits would make people ill or destroy their crops. To protect themselves, they created a special event to exorcise a symbolic evil spirit, or demon.

This special event is still performed each year, through throwing beans and reciting chants to keep demons away. Read on for more information about these celebrations.

2. When is it?

Season

節分 (Setsubun) literally means “the day that marks the change from one season to the next.” In the spring, this day is called 立春 (risshun); in the summer, it’s 立夏 (rikka); in the fall, it’s 立秋 (risshū); and in the winter, it’s 立冬 (rittō). Since the Edo period in the 16th and 17th century, the day before 立春 (risshun), meaning “spring,” has been the only one with the name 節分(Setsubun). It’s held each year around February 4.

3. How is it Celebrated?

Throw Roasted Soybeans

There are some fascinating Setsubun traditions that take place on this day. Take, for example, the following.

At places such as homes and temples, people say, “鬼は外、福は内! (Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!)” meaning “Demons outside, fortune inside!” Then, they throw roasted soybeans, known as 福豆 (fukumame) or “fortune beans.” Each family member sows beans at home, though in recent years they have become available at stores like supermarkets.

At temples, men and women known as 年男 (toshi otoko) and 年女 (toshi onna), meaning they were born in the same Chinese zodiac sign as the current year, throw the beans. These people are said to be vulnerable to disaster that year. After throwing the beans, one bean is eaten for each year of age, and prayers are made for good health over the course of the year.

Demons are a big part of throwing the beans. However, since demons are fictional and don’t actually exist, fathers will often wear a demon Setsubun mask (or Setsubun oni) and dress as a demon. At kindergartens and nurseries, teachers will play the role of the demon. While children are a little scared, they cheerfully throw beans while chanting “demons outside, fortune inside.” The demon then rushes away and escapes through a door.

At 節分 (Setsubun), 恵方巻 (ehōmaki) is eaten for good luck. This is a large sushi roll stuffed with Japanese omelette (also known as Tamagoyaki), cucumber, and gourd. Sushi rolls are usually cut into bite-size pieces, but ehōmaki is eaten just as it is, approximately twenty centimeters (almost eight inches) in length.

There’s also an interesting custom of eating this meal while facing the “lucky direction” for that given year. Further, it’s considered good luck to finish eating the roll in total silence, and many people choose to think about their wishes for the new year as they eat it. One possible wish could be for 無病息災 (Mubyō sokusai) or a “state of perfect health.”

4. Additional Information

Did you know that while in most regions people chant “demons outside, fortune inside,” in some places people chant “fortune inside, demons inside?” At temples dedicated to demons, it’s thought that demons are for the use of a god, and so chanting “demons outside” is taboo. This offers a glimpse into an interesting facet of the Japanese culture and how thinking differs on this topic.

Another interesting fact about this holiday is that sardines are attached to a holly branch, which is then hung on the door. Thorns also grow on holly trees, and it is believed that they too have the power of a talisman to ward away demons.

5. Must-know Vocab

Here’s some helpful vocabulary for you to study so you can celebrate Bean-throwing Day to its fullest!

  • 豆 (まめ) — green bean
  • 節分 (せつぶん) — Bean-throwing Ceremony
  • 神社 (じんじゃ) — shrine
  • 鬼 (おに) — devil
  • 立春 (りっしゅん) — the first day of spring
  • 無病息災 (むびょうそくさい) — state of perfect health
  • 恵方巻き(えほうまき) — fortune sushi roll
  • 福は内、鬼は外 (ふくはうち、おにはそと。) — Devils out! Good luck in!
  • 鬼の面 (おにのめん) — devil’s mask
  • 豆まき(まめまき) — bean-throwing
  • 節分祭 (せつぶんさい) — bean-throwing festival

To hear the pronunciation of each vocab word, check out our Japanese Bean-throwing Day vocabulary list. Here you’ll find each vocab word with an audio file for you to listen to.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Setsubun Festival is rooted deeply in Japan’s history, especially in terms of early religion and spiritual beliefs. While some of these beliefs have dwindled over time, this is still a widely celebrated holiday and is enjoyed by many Japanese people each year.

What do you think about the Setsubun Bean-throwing Ceremony in Japan? Is there a similar holiday in your home country? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in learning more about Japanese culture? Visit us at JapanesePod101.com, and take advantage of our free vocabulary lists as well as our informational blog posts. You can even utilize our online community to discuss lessons with fellow students, and download our MyTeacher app for a one-on-one Japanese learning experience.

We hope you enjoyed learning about this Japanese holiday and that you’ll continue delving into Japan’s fascinating culture as you learn the language. JapanesePod101.com will be here for you every step of the way!

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