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

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Kashiwa mochi
This rice cake contains bean jam and is wrapped in an oak leaf. This type is eaten during the Tango no Sekku festival, celebrated on May 5.
Koi-nobori (carp streamers)
Carp banners "swim" in the wind, highlighting the blue skies of early May. Families decorate the sky above their homes with these windsock-like streamers to celebrate Tango no Sekku (Children's Day, May 5), and to wish for the success and good health of male children in the home (girls have their day in March, the Hina Matsuri). The large black carp (ma-goi) represents the father, the medium size red one (hi-goi) the mother, and the small one(s) the young boy(s). The five-colored banners symbolize the home, and the ensemble signifies a happy family. (Photo by Ito Chiharu)

Aoi Festival
The Aoi Festival, which revolves around two Shinto shrines in Kyoto, has been celebrated for more than a thousand years. On May 15 each year, more than 500 people in traditional costumes from the Heian period (794 - 1185) set out from the Kyoto Imperial Palace on horses, in ox carts, and carrying portable shrines. They parade along the streets and pay visits to two shrines, Shimogamo and Kamigamo. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)

Mother's Day (Haha no Hi)
Carnations are in great demand just before Mother's Day (the second Sunday in May).
In Japan, it is customary to give red carnations to one's mother on that day, as an expression of thanks. Other colors, especially pink and yellow, have also gained popularity recently. (Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers Co.)

Japan Derby
Japan's top horse racing classic, the Japan Derby, is held at Tokyo Racecourse on the last Sunday in May. It was first organized in 1932, along the lines of The Derby in England.
The photo shows a scene from the 2005 Japan Derby, with enthusiasm at a fever pitch.(Photo credit: Japan Racing Association)

Planting rice shoots (ta-ue)
Rice is grown from seed, and when the plants are big enough, in May, the shoots are transplanted to watery paddy fields throughout Japan. Years ago, the shoots were transplanted one by one by hand—back-breaking work, since the farmers had to bend down the whole time. The whole village would work together at this time. Today, though, machinery is used. (Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers Co.)
April 29 to May 5
"Golden Week"(See photo and description)
A long holiday for many people. Consists of a number of national holidays and other vacations strung together with a Saturday and Sunday.
May Day
Kenpo Kinen-bi (Constitution Day, national holiday)
3rd and 4th
Hakata Dontaku Festival, in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture
Perhaps the best festival in Fukuoka, the largest city on Kyushu. Participants dress up in all kinds of interesting costumes, and parade about the city making noise by banging shamoji (wooden ladles used to scoop rice). There is traditional dancing in open public areas of the city.
3rd to 6th
Kurayami Festival, at Okunitama Shrine
in Fuchu, Tokyo Prefecture
Kokumin no Kyujitsu, national holiday
Kodomo no Hi (Tango no Sekku, Children's Day, national holiday)
(See photo and description)
6th (approximate)
Rikka (beginning of summer)
This is a time when vegetation begins sprouting in earnest. The most comfortable time of the year, temperature-wise. Cherry blossoms are in their prime in the north.
2nd Sunday in May
Mother's Day (See photo)
14th to 16th
Izumo Taisha Shrine Grand Festival, at Izumo Shrine, Izumo, Shimane Prefecture
Since ancient times it has been said that deities reside at Izumo, an old settlement on the Sea of Japan in what is now known as Shimane Prefecture, in the Chugoku region. The festival honors Okuninushi-no-kami, the god of marriage.
Aoi Festival, centering on Kamigamo and Shimogamo shrines in Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture (See photo)
The first Friday to Sunday after the 15th
Sanja Festival, at Asakusa Shrine,
Taito-ku, Tokyo

Held in the city's Asakusa district, well known as a former traditional working class area. Perhaps Tokyo's most exciting festival—masses of people parade about carrying portable shrines.
Last Sunday in May
Japan Derby (See photo)
During "Golden Week," many people take advantage of the long holidays to go on a trip. Frustrating traffic jams on expressways become the norm during this period. (Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers Co.)


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