Next Tuesday (February 3, 2009) will be 節分 (Setsubun).
I wrote a little bit about it on my site’s FAQ page. (Click here to read it).
You can buy 節分 (Setsubun) beans and 鬼 (demon) masks at stores in Japan this time of year. On this holiday, the father in homes with children wears the demon mask (it’s not a scary demon) and the children throw the beans at him while shouting 「鬼は外、福は内!」 (“Out with the bad luck, in with the good!” (lit. “Demon out, Fortune in!”)).
After the kids throw the beans, the 鬼 (demon) runs away. The children have banished bad luck from the home for the year!
Then everyone in the family picks the beans off the floor and eats them (floors in Japanese homes are clean because noone wears shoes indoors). You’re supposed to eat the number of beans that corresponds to your age.
Another thing that is popular on 節分 (Setsubun) is to visit a major temple (for example, 浅草寺 (Sensou-ji Temple) in 浅草 (Asakusa, Tokyo)) for their 節分 (Setsubun) event.
If you have a chance, you should see it. I have to work on Tuesday, so I can’t go…but I’ve been to 節分 (Setsubun) events many times.
At these events, a famous sumo wrestler or celebrity who was born in the same Chinese zodiac sign as the current year will throw 節分 (Setsubun) beans at the crowd.
February 11 is 建国記念日 (National Foundation Day).
Click here to read my short FAQ about it.
Just as it is in Western countries, February 14 is 「バレンタイン・デー」 (Valentine’s Day).
But it’s celebrated differently here. In Western countries, men give chocolate or gifts to women on 「バレンタイン・デー」 (Valentine’s Day)…but in Japan, women give chocolate to men on this day.
Not just any chocolate. And not just one man. She makes homemade chocolate for her boyfriend (or husband and sons), and also gives 義理チョコ (Obligation Chocolate) to male co-workers, boss, brother-in-law, etc.
(Click here to read my FAQ about it.)
Then one month later, on March 14, it’s 「ホワイト・デー」 (White Day). This day is closer to Western-style Valentine’s Day, because men give chocolate or gifts to every women who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s Day. The most expensive for his girlfriend (or wife and daughters).
(Click here to read my FAQ about “White Day“.)
Well, this year, Japan’s biggest chocolate company, 「森永」 (Morinaga), is offering a series of chocolates this 「バレンタイン・デー」 (Valentine’s Day) aimed at couples who would like to do 「バレンタイン・デー」 (Valentine’s Day) the “Western style” (men give chocolate to women).
They packaged these chocolates with all the writing backwards because that’s what Western-style 「バレンタイン・デー」 (Valentine’s Day) is in Japan. Backwards.
Last year, the Japan Tourism Board tried a “Yokoso! Japan Weeks” campaign to lure visitors to Japan…and I guess it worked, because right now until February 28, 2009 is “Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009“.
(「ようこそ」 (Yokoso (or “youkoso”)) means “Welcome” in Japanese.)
During this campaign, there are many specials and sales to help foreign visitors enjoy Japan.
If you plan to visit Japan, the official “Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009” website has information that will be helpful. And if you visit during by February 28, 2009, there’s a coupon on the site that you can print out and use a stores listed on the website.
(Click here to visit the official “Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009” website).
Also, if you’re planning to visit Japan (or you’re already here), and you have any questions…feel free to ask me via comment on this blog (or Email) and I’ll try to help.