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

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Hana-mi dango
These sweet dumplings are made from steamed rice flour that has been pounded with a large wooden mallet. Two kinds are shown here: the darker variety (rear) is covered with bean jam, the lighter variety (foreground) is grilled with soy sauce. Hana-mi dango became popular in the 1800s as delicacies served to cherry blossom viewers.
Hana-mi (cherry blossom viewing)
When the cherry trees come out in flower, huge crowds of people visit parks famous for cherry blossoms, such as Ueno Park in Tokyo. They come not only to admire the blossoms but also to gather under the branches to eat, drink and have a good (and noisy) time—a typical Japanese pastime during this season. Every year, the Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts when the blossoms will open in each local region—another example of how much the Japanese are fond of these blossoms, which adorn the country with delicate of shades of pink each year. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)

Beginning of the pro baseball season
Baseball is Japan's most avidly followed professional sport. There are two pro leagues—Central and Pacific. Each league has six teams. The combat begins in April and is not over until October, when the champions are decided in the Japan Series. Photo: A game at Full Cast Stadium Miyagi, in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. (Photo Credit: TOHOKU RAKUTEN GOLDEN EAGLES)

You know it is spring when...
You know it is spring in Japan when the tips of bamboo shoots peep above the ground. That is the time to dig them up to eat.
In addition to bamboo shoots, other wild vegetables and herbs telling us spring has come include tara no me (fatsia buds), seri (Japanese parsley), fukinoto (butterbur flower), and udo (Aralia cordata). (Photo by Kono Toshihiko)

School and company entrance ceremonies
The photo shows proud and perhaps slightly apprehensive brand-new students at the entrance to their school grounds. Today, a ceremony is held to mark the beginning of their years at elementary school. The school and university year in Japan begins in April, and companies and government ministries begin their fiscal year in April as well. Many new employees hired as full-time workers start work in April. Educational institutions and companies both hold entrance ceremonies. Students, parents and other family members attend the school ceremonies, new employees attend the company ones. (Photo by Ishiyama Jun)

Early April
School entrance ceremonies
(See photo); beginning of the new school year; company entrance ceremonies

Start of the professional baseball season (See photo)

Cherry blossom viewing (See photo)
At this time of year, the cherry blossoms in many parts of Japan are at their peak.
Entire month of April
Miyako Odori (traditional dance in Kyoto)
Colorful dances performed by geigi (geisha) and maiko (apprentice geisha) from Gion-machi, Kyoto.
6th to 15th
Spring Nationwide Traffic Safety Campaign
Two 10-day campaigns are held each year—one in the spring, the other in the fall. Motorists are reminded about basic traffic rules, and lessons in transport safety are given to young students.
Kanbutsu-e (Anniversary of the birthday of Buddha)
Religious ceremonies at Buddhist temples celebrate the birth of Buddha. The common name for the ceremonies is Hana-matsuri (Flower Festival). Other names are Bussho-e and Kotan-e.
11th (in 2005) (old calendar: March 3)
Mochigase no Nagashi-bina (paper hina dolls are set afloat down a river in Mochigase-cho, Tottori Prefecture)
11th and 12th
Yoshino Hana Ku E Shiki, at Kinpusen-ji Temple, Yoshino-cho, Nara Prefecture
12th to 15th
Sanno Festival, at Hiyoshi Shrine, Otsu, Shiga Prefecture
13th to 17th
Yayoi Festival, at Futarasan Shrine in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
14th and 15th
Takayama Spring Festival, at Hie Shrine, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
Portable shrines and a dozen or more floats are pulled by participants around the city. The floats are decorated with elaborate gold work and carvings, as well as gorgeous artwork such as embroidered banners, all showing the skills of artisans of the Hida region.
Invention Day
Posts and Telecommunications Day
21st to 29th
Mibu kyogen comic drama, at Mibu-dera Temple, Kyoto
Midori no Hi (Greenery Day)
National holiday. A day to get in touch with nature, feel thankful for its blessings, and develop a more relaxed outlook on life. The holiday used to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Showa (reigned 1926-1989). Today, it also commemorates his fondness of plants and biology.


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