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NIPPONIA No.34 September 15, 2005

Hishi mochi
Three rice cakes, each colored differently, are rolled out thin, cut into diamond shapes, and placed in layers. Commonly seen as a decoration for the doll festival, Hina Matsuri. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)
O-mizu tori ritual, at Nigatsu-do Hall, Todai-ji Temple, Nara
This important event in the Buddhist calendar is held at one of Japan's most famous temples for two weeks, beginning on March 1.
The climax comes on the 12th, long after dark. An immense, flaming taimatsu torch is carried swiftly along the long veranda surrounding Nigatsu-do Hall. (The photo is a time exposure.) Sparks scatter to the crowd below. Another rite, this one much more austere, is held around the same time—monks draw water from a well on the temple grounds, and offer it to the statue of Kannon. (Photo credit:JTB Photo)

Graduation ceremonies (sotsugyo-shiki)
In Japan the school year starts in April, and March is the time for graduation ceremonies. University graduations mark the end of many years of schooling going all the way back to first grade, and signify the time when young men and women enter working society. Recently, as we can see in this photo, some female graduates wear a kimono with a hakama covering the lower body, imitating the style of female students in the early 1900s. You may see other students dressed up in unusual styles that happen to be in vogue. (Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers Co.)
Hina Matsuri
(Doll Festival)
Girls arrange dolls in formal traditional dress, to decorate part of the home and express a wish for health and happiness. (Photo credit: Kyugetsu Limited)
3rd and 4th
Daruma doll fair, at Jindai-ji Temple, Chofu, Tokyo
Daruma dolls are wish-fulfillment charms representing Bodhidharma, the Indian priest who founded Zen Buddhism in China around the 5th century. The dolls are sold with large white spots for the eyes. It is customary to paint in one eye (black) and make a wish. If the wish is granted, the other eye is painted in. At the fair, many eyeless dolls are lined up for sale.
This is one of the nijushi sekki (24 seasonal points in the Chinese solar calendar). Keichitsu refers to a day when spring feels warm enough for insects to come out of hibernation and crawl up to the soil surface. The word is used in haiku poetry as a term with a seasonal connotation.
O-mizu tori ritual, at Nigatsu-do Hall, Todai-ji Temple, Nara(See photo)
Dai-hi-watari Festival, at Yakuo-in Temple, Takaosan, Hachioji, Tokyo
Kasuga Festival, at Kasuga Shrine, Nara
O-ta-ue Festival, at Kirishima Shrine in Kirishima-cho, Kagoshima Prefecture
18th to 24th (approximate)
Haru no Higan
Festivities to celebrate the spring equinox.
21st (approximate)
Shumbun no Hi(Spring Equinox)
At the time of the spring equinox, day and night are of more or less equal duration. After then, the daytime is longer than the night, and the sun chases away the cold. This is a day to honor nature and show an affinity with the natural world. National holiday so designated in 1948.
Hoso Kinen-bi(Broadcasting Day)
Between 1st and 25th (approximate)
Graduation ceremonies(See photo)
O-Kichi Festival,
in Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture

Around 1860, Townsend Harris was the first diplomat to represent the United States in Japan. Under orders from the magistrate at Shimoda, a 17-year-old girl called O-Kichi became Townsend's servant. The festival is held on the anniversary of her death, and offers a wish for her happiness in the next world. The festival includes dances performed by many geisha, and a market selling potted plants and trees.
This day commemorates Sen no Rikyu, a famous tea master who was forced to commit seppuku (suicide by slicing one's own stomach open) in 1591. Tea ceremonies are held each year at Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto, and other locations. Some schools celebrate his memory on the 27th instead.


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