OBON (Bon Festival)
O-bon is an important Buddhist festival to pray for the souls of the dead and conduct services in their memory. During the o-bon holidays, the souls of the ancestors are thought to return to this world from the world beyond. Lanterns are lit at each house to guide the departed souls back home.
During this season, Japanese people had always given thanks for a plentiful harvest. Over times those traditions were gradually combined with Buddhist rituals to become the Bon Festival celebrated today.
On August 14 and 15, people return to their native towns and gather with other family members to honor the souls of their ancestors. They ask Buddhist priest to come to their homes and read special sutras.
Families gather at the graves of their ancestors and clean all around before placing offerings on a special shelf and welcoming the souls back home.
Tanabata (Star Festival)
Legend has it that Vega and Altair, who are separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet only once a year on the night of Tanabata or July 7th.
It is said that if you write your wish on a tanzaku (a strip of paper) and hang it on a bamboo grass, your wish will be granted.
A few years ago, my son Kengo wrote that he wanted to be like me. And this year, it seems that he wishes to be a firefighter!
From ancient times, it has been customary to eat somen noodles in the Milky Way in Tanabata. Today, somen is served for lunch at my son’s kindergarten. My son loves somen noodles, so he also had somen noodles for dinner at home.
Tango no Sekku (Children’s Day)
Children’s Day is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May 5th, and it is part of Golden Week Holidays.
The day was originally called “Tango no Sekku”, or Boy’s Festival, was celebrated in order to wish the healthy growth of the boys in the family. Outside of their houses, families with boys fly large carp streamers called “Koinobori”. Inside they display various kinds of warrior dolls or ornamental helmets called Kabuto because they are believed to be symbols of strength and vitality. At night, people put iris leaves and roots in the bath. It is believed that it will purge noxious vapor.
In 1948, this day was designated a national holiday and renamed “Children Day”. It is now a day for boys and girls to celebrate together.
Traditional foods such as “kashiwa-mochi” and “chimaki” are eaten on that day. Kashiwamochi is steamed dumplings filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves. Oak trees don’t drop their leaves until new shoots have begun to appear. The leaved represents the wish for continuation of the family line and are thus an auspicious part of these traditional sweets. (To see Kashiwamochi, please check this article.)
Chimaki is also dumplings made of glutinous rice, wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied with a piece of rush. This type of sweets came from China and is seen in various forms around Japan. I found the one at the international supermarket in town.
This year, I displayed the koinobori that Kengo created inside of the house and had special chimaki that is made of glutinous rice with chestnuts and read bean paste inside.
Japanese tradition for 1 year old baby : Erabitori
My daughter Sui-chan became 1 year old!
One year passed so fast. My husband and I always talk and laugh a lot about her birth day last year. That day, I had an initial labor pain mid night (around 1am!), but I was trying to forget it because it was two weeks before the scheduled date. So I went asleep until 6am. I was convinced that my daughter would be born today, so I hurriedly started editing my YouTube (It was a Yakisoba recipe video!) until the taxi arrives at 9am. Then, after eating delicious lunch at the hospital, I gave birth Sui-chan within 1 hour! What a busy and funny birth day!!! It was and would be a memorable day forever!
At Sui-chan’s 1st birthday, my family and I did Japan’s traditional fortune game called “erabitori”. We put several items on the floor and wait until Sui-chan picks up the first item.
Those items are…
– Globe (we didn’t have balloon in the house 😅)
– Mirror and comb
– Book (we didn’t have dictionary in the house 😅)
– Spoon and chopsticks
– Pen and brush
Guess what Sui-chan chose! Read More