Web Japan > NIPPONIA No.34 > Special Feature*
NIPPONIA No.34 September 15, 2005

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Mizukusa and seiryu
Rakugan (top right) and aruheito (lower left). Rakugan is rice flour, sugar and other ingredients kneaded together and hardened. Here it was given the shape and light green color of water grass (mizukusa). The aruheito candies depict a cool stream with clear water (seiryu).
Doyo no Ushi no Hi, around the hottest day of the year
In the traditional calendar, Doyo no Ushi no Hi occurs around the hottest period of the year. The humidity is also high at this time in mid-July. This is a time to take special care of one's health by eating nourishing food, and folklore has it that grilled eel flavored with a sweet and salty teriyaki sauce will fit the bill. When the fragrance of this delicacy wafts from small kaba-yaki outlets, you may see people lined up to buy. The custom of eating eel in mid-summer began in the 18th century, promoted by merchants eager to sell the day's catch.
(Photo: Sugawara Chiyoshi, with the collaboration of Miyagawa Honten)

Sumida River Fireworks Festival
Summer evenings in Japan are a time for fireworks. The Sumida River Fireworks Festival, held on the last Saturday in July in an old residential district near central Tokyo, has added to summer enjoyment since the 18th century. The festival was suspended in the 1960s and 70s because of safety concerns—the river was polluted and the wooden homes were considered to be too close to each other—but the show came back on track in 1978 and ever since then, hundreds of thousands of people come to enjoy it each year.
(Photo credit: Sumida City Hall)

Morning glory fair
Morning glories, one of the most common summer garden plants in Japan, climb up house fronts and garden walls. Around the end of the 1800s, expert gardeners in the downtown districts of Tokyo would exhibit their morning glories, each person trying to outdo the others with unusual varieties. The competition became an attraction and a morning glory fair sprang up at Shingen-ji (Kishibojin) Temple in the Iriya district of Tokyo. From July 6 to 8 each year, more than 20,000 potted morning glories, all in their colorful splendor, are sold at the fair. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)

Tanabata Festival
Two lovers in the night sky—actually, two stars called Hiko-boshi (Altair) and Princess Ori-hime (Vega)—an cross the Milky Way only once a year to spend the night together, on the 7th day of the 7th month. Or so, at least, goes an old Chinese legend that came to Japan many years ago and became mixed with Japanese folklore. The lovers' nighttime rendezvous is an occasion to make some wishes to the heavens. The wishes are written on colorful paper banners and tied to bamboo branches, which are then placed vertically as decoration.
(Photo credit: JTB Photo)
1st to 15th
Hakata Gion Yamagasa Festival, in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture
The festival revolves around Kushida Shrine in the Hakata district near central Fukuoka. On the last day of the festival, enthusiastic men in happi jackets jostle through the streets carrying huge floats, providing plenty of excitement for the crowds. Onlookers along the streets show their support and enthusiasm by tossing water on the participants. In different parts of the city you can see decorative floats with huge (12 to 13 meters tall!) figurines depicting characters from children's stories and military lore.
6th to 8th
Iriya Morning Glory Fair, at Shingen-ji (Kishibojin) Temple, Taito-ku, Tokyo
(See photo)
Tanabata Festival and Shosho
As the rainy baiu front begins to weaken, summer temperatures increase. This is the time of Shosho, the " lesser summer heat." The Tanabata Festival occurs at almost exactly the same time. Shosho ends on the day called Doyo no Hi. (See photo)
7th to 15th
Lifting of the baiu front, and o-chugen
It rains a lot in mid-July, and it is hot and humid every day. When the rainy season (tsuyu) ends, summer takes over in full force.
From mid-July until early September
Gujo Odori traditional dances, in Gujo, Gifu Prefecture
Folk dances associated with the Bon Festival have been an attraction in Gujo, a town nestled in a mountain valley, for about 400 years. Every evening for 32 days, the dance scene shifts, from some open space in the town to a shrine, park, etc. Things build to a climax for the tetsuya odori, dances that go on through the night from August 13 to 16. The sounds of the hayashi band and wooden geta footwear ring out every night.
Nachi no Hi Fire Festival, in Nachi Katsuura-cho, Wakayama Prefecture
This spectacular fire festival is held at Kumano Nachi Shrine, which was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2004. Huge pine torches,
each weighing about 50 kg, light the pathway to the shrine.
19th (approximate)
Doyo no Ushi no Hi
(See photo)
Umi no Kinen-bi (Marine Day, national holiday)
Summer holidays start for elementary, junior high and senior high school students. The school year begins in April, and the first term ends on July 20, giving students a holiday that lasts about 40 days. But they remain busy with studies, club activities, and all the fun things there are to do in summer.
22nd to 25th (approximate)
After the rainy baiu (tsuyu) front passes, the hottest days of the summer (Taisho, the " greater heat ")arrive.
Last Saturday in July
Sumida River Fireworks Festival, in Sumida-ku, Tokyo (See photo)
29th to 31st (in 2005)
Fuji Rock Festival, in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture
This is Japan's biggest rock music festival, held every summer at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. Famous musicians and bands from Japan and abroad—about 100 groups in all—show their stuff on eight stages at an outdoor site that holds an audience of 30,000. Exciting performances in a unique atmosphere.


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