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Tea plantation (JNTO)

Hachiju-hachiya literally means "88 nights," and refers to the eighty-eighth day after risshun, the first day of spring on the traditional Japanese calendar. On the modern calendar, it usually falls on around May 2. Though, in leap year such as 2016, it is May 1.

Quite often in April, nighttime temperatures can fall really low even when it's hot during the day, and it's not unusual for frost to set in. But strangely enough, after hachiju-hachiya frost almost never appears, so rice farmers can safely begin planting seeds in rice beds. Therefore, it's a very important day for farmers, and it started being marked on the calendar around three centuries ago. Today, though, it's become possible to plant rice a little earlier thanks to the development of sturdier strains of rice.

green tea

(Saga Prefecture/JNTO)

People in Japan drink a lot of green tea in addition to the black tea that's common in Europe and North America. For Japanese tea growers, too, hachiju-hachiya is an important day, since the best time of the year to pick tea is during the two to three weeks starting from hachiju-hachiya. Moreover, the very young buds and leaves picked on hachiju-hachiya are especially prized as high-quality green tea, and drinking tea on this day is thought to promote long life.