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Archive for the 'Japanese Holidays' Category

Learn Japanese Culture – Valentine’s Day in Japan

Many of our readers are probably familiar with Valentine’s Day, and even celebrate it in their home country. Valentine’s Day probably conjures up images of hearts, red roses, Valentine candy, and maybe even the cute little Valentine’s Day cards you used to exchange in elementary school.

 But do you know how Valentine’s Day works in Japan? The Japanese Valentine’s Day has its own set of unique customs and rules that set it apart from the holiday celebrated around the world.

 First of all, while in western countries it is common for both men and women to give gifts on Valentine’s Day, in Japan, the gift-giving is left strictly to the women. Girls and women give chocolate (either handmade or store-bought) to a significant other or someone they are interested in. Surprisingly, though, women do not give chocolate only to that special someone they are interested in romantically, which is known as 本命チョコ (honmei choko, “chocolate for someone special”). There is also a tradition of giving chocolate to platonic male friends, co-workers, and bosses. This chocolate is given out of obligation, which is reflected in the name, 義理チョコ (giri choko, “obligation chocolate”).

So, do the girls walk away with nothing, you may wonder? Not quite. Lately on Valentine’s Day, many women decide to give chocolate to their female friends, which is known as
友チョコ(tomo-choko, “friend chocolate”), or even buy chocolate for themselves, known as マイチョコ (mai-choko, “my chocolate”). The main event for women, however, takes place on March 14th, one month after Valentine’s Day. This marks White Day, a day where men give chocolate back to the women they received chocolate from a month earlier. White Day was created by the Japanese National Confectionary Industry Association in 1980 as a way to sell more sweets such as candies. Surprisingly, gifts of flowers, non-chocolate candies, and dinner dates that are strongly associated with Valentine’s Day in Western countries are uncommon in Japan.

 What do you think about the Japanese way of celebrating Valentine’s Day? What kind of Valentine’s Day traditions do you celebrate in your country?

Japanese Holidays: Kinrou kansha no hi ”Labor Thanksgiving Day”

In Japan, November 23rd is a National Holiday called 勤労感謝の日(Kinrou kansha no hi) which means Labor Thanksgiving Day.  This holiday was originally a national festival called “Niinamesai” meaning “Harvest Festival.” At the festival, the emperor dedicated the year’s harvest to the Shinto Gods and ate it to celebrate the harvest of that year. Read the rest of this post »

Japanese Holidays: Health and Sports Day(体育の日)

The second Monday in October is a national holiday called “Health and Sports Day”, which is known as “Taiiku no hi” (体育の日) in Japanese. It falls on October 12th this year.

The first Health and Sports Day was held on October 10, 1966, two years after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, to commemorate the Olympics which started on October 10 of that year. This holiday was held on October 10 until 1999, and in 2000, it was moved to the second Monday in October as part of the Happy Monday system. (Because of this sytem, some National holidays were moved to Monday to make three-day weekends.)

This holiday is a day to promote sports and physical and mental health. Some sports facilities discount or drop their fees, and many schools hold their sports festivals on this day.  These sports festivals are called “undōkai” (運動会) in Japanese.  This is a big annual event for school kids and their families. They usually do track events such as a relay or a sprint race, or fun events such as three-legged races, ball games, and so on.  Parents and/or grandparents of the children partcipating come to see them at the event, bringing lunch from home and eating it together as a family on the field. Some parents line up early in the morning in order to secure a good spot to see their kids.

Here are some lessons we have that are about Health and Sports Day or Sports day.  Please check them out!

Japanese Culture Class #28 – Health and Sports Day
Audio Blog #57 – Sports Day Memories
Lower Intermediate Lesson #33 – Sports Day
Upper Intermediate Lesson S2 #14 – Battle of the Classes 1
Upper Intermediate Lesson S2 #15: Battle of the Classes 2
Upper Intermediate Lesson S2 #16 – Battle of the Classes 3

Japanese Holidays: Silver Week

A string of consecutive holidays in autumn is called Silver Week in Japan, as opposed to Golden Week, which is a period that includes several Japanese holidays from the end of April to the beginning of May. Read the rest of this post »

Japanese Culture – Do you know what Marine Day in Japan is? (海の日)

On the third Monday of July each year, the Japanese celebrate what is known as Marine Day (“Umi no hi”). This is a relatively new national holiday to celebrate the honor of the ocean and wish for the prosperity of Japan as an ocean country.

In the past, the sea has played a very significant part of Japan’s economy.  Marine Day was originally designated in 1941 as the anniversary of the day when Emperor Meiji returned in 1876 from his boat trip to Hokkaido after an inspection. Read the rest of this post »

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