Ohanami is cherry blossom viewing. People go to parks to view them. It is a very popular company outing as well. People sit on the ground under the cherry trees and spend an hour or two (or three) eating and drinking. Some even sing and dance.
You should bring good food, good sake, and a plastic sheet to sit on!
Yozakura literally means “night cherry blossom.” People gather after dark to enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms at night. It is a popular style of hanami. At night, some places even light up the cherry blossoms.
Weather is the key for cherry blossom viewing. Let’s hope tomorrow will be a fine day!
Matsuri means “festival.” It is for a stable harvest, business prosperity, safety, longevity, and world peace. The matsuri is also an occasion to thank our ancestors for the protection they provide to the family and the community.
A mikoshi is like a portable wooden shrine. During a festival, some people wearing jackets called happi, carry the mikoshi around the neighborhood on their shoulders. The design of the mikoshi and the style of carrying it are different in each neighborhood.
Can you guess who we are praying to? We’re praying to kami, a Shinto god. Matsuri is related to the Shinto religion.
【Spring Festival and Fall Festival】
Two major events in shrines are the spring festival and the fall festival. In spring, the people pray for a stable harvest. In fall, the people give thanks for an ample harvest. In summer, festivals are also held, and people pray for stable weather.
Demise are booths appearing inside or near shrines during the festivals. Demise sell toys and food. You can also enjoy catching gold fish, playing shooting games and so on. There might be background sound of Japanese instruments, like whistles and drums.
People shout when carrying mikoshi. The most popular words are “Wasshoi”, “Essa,” and “Seiya.” There are many explanations for these words, but nobody knows which one is true. The words may not mean anything at all. They may just be “spirit-lifting” chants.
► Q：Why do the carriers handle the mikoshi so roughly?
► A：It’s because people think that shaking the mikoshi makes the spirits livelier. Sometimes the carriers let two or three mikoshi crash into each other.
Furin is a “wind chime,” made of glass, iron, crockery and so on. It is hung by a window in the summer time. People feel relieved to hear the light and crispy sound of the chime in the hot summer weather. Furin is a seasonal item — when the summer is over, furin are taken down and stored away.
Bon odori is the local bon dance gathering which community members participate in. Bon is the time when the spirits of our ancestors return from heaven. Maybe it could be described as “the Japanese version of Halloween.”
【What is Bon odori about】
At the local bon season, either in mid July or mid August, each community hosts bon odori to welcome the ancestors’ visit. Bon odori is a form of entertainment; with cheerful taiko music and traditional folk songs, the dancers usually circle around the tower called a yagura.
Chochin is a lantern, a portable lighting device. It is made of thin strips of bamboo and washi paper. Chochin can be hung from the ceiling, or carried by hand. They are essential at festivals and ceremonies. They used to have a candle inside, but nowadays many of the chochin found are lit by a light bulb.
Hyottoko is a type of mask. It represents a comical male character. Hyottoko appears in traditional dances. In many cases hyottoko appears with its female partner, okame.
Kakigori is shaved ice. Only in summer, kakigori is served at restaurants and stands. You find it at summer festivals as well. If you buy an ice shaver, you can make it at home. You pour flavored syrup (lemon, strawberry, melon, etc) on top, and eat it.
Ramune is a type of soft drink popular among children. The name originally comes from “lemonade.” Ramune comes in bottles and is sold mostly at festivals. In each bottle, a small glass ball is placed at the top and serves as a lid. You push the glass ball down hard with your thumb into the bottle. Then you are able to drink the sweet liquid inside.
Some shops collect the empty bottle and give them to the recycle company. So you should ask the shop owner if they are collecting them or not.
Kanzashi are hair accessories used for women’s traditional hairstyle. There are many different shapes of kanzashi. Some are decorative but some are simple stick- shapes. In the old days when men and women wore kimonos and traditional hairstyles, women commonly wore a stick-shaped kanzashi.