Tag Archives: festivals

What are your country’s summer traditions?

10 Jul

Summer in Japan is very 蒸し暑い (“muggy” / hot and humid).

“Beware of heat stroke in the hot summer!”

Florida, where I grew up, is also hot and humid during the summer. But, unlike Japan, I don’t recall any particular traditions of summer in Florida…other than going to the beach or water-slide parks.

Japanese people like to celebrate the uniqueness of the seasons of the year. There are traditions in autumn, winter, spring and summer in Japan.

A few of Japan’s summer traditions are:

Summer festivals and fireworks shows.
Japan has 祭り (festivals) all year round…but there’s an abundance of them in the summer. And in late July to early August, there are many excellent 花火大会 (fireworks shows).
Click here to see my listing of summer festivals in the Tokyo area.

● スイカ割り (“Watermelon smashing”)


This is a Japanese summertime tradition that is similar to Mexico’s piñata. In both traditions, people take turns being blindfolded and try to hit the target with a stick, but in Mexico, the target is a kind of paper doll filled with candy that gets hit until it breaks open, Japan’s スイカ割り (“Watermelon smashing”) has a watermelon as the target. Once the watermelon gets hit and breaks open, everyone enjoys eating it.

● アナゴ (freshwater eel)
Eating eel is believed to give stamina to survive the grueling summer heat.
Click here to read a post that I wrote about it.

蝉 (Cicadas)
Every summer the 蝉 (cicadas) can be heard chirping in Japan. It’s considered one of the sounds of summer.
I wrote this post about the cicada in Japan.

● かき氷 (Shaved ice)

Eating shaved ice with a sweet syrup flavoring is a popular way to people to stay cool in the summer in Japan.
If you want to buy a  かき氷 (Shaved ice) in Japan, you can find them when you see a flag or poster that looks like this:

The character is 「氷」 and means “ice”

● ビアガーデン (“Beer garden”)

In the summertime, many places in Japan offer space to drink beer outdoors (and often on the building’s roof) in the cool night breeze.
Some places offer an “all-you-drink” (within a time limit) special.

●Pools and beaches

Of course, swimming is popular in the summertime in Japan just as it is in Florida.
Pools and beaches in Japan have lifeguards on duty and very few are open year-round.
Most of them are opening around now. Toshimaen, an excellent amusement park / waterslide park / pool in Tokyo opened on weekends only beginning July 2nd this year and will be open everyday from July 16th until September 4th.

What types of traditions does your country have in the summer?

日本の夏

18 Jun

It’s now summertime.

Currently it’s 「梅雨」 (“Rainy season“) in Japan. As usual for this time of year, it’s forecast to rain a lot for the next few days.
But also, the temperature is rising steadily and it’s quite humid. Today it was a muggy 31°C (88°F) in Tokyo.

Summer is hot and humid here…but it’s still very enjoyable. There’s so much to do.
Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer are all very different in Japan. Of course the weather is different…but I mean the food, festivals, and general atmosphere is different and unique to each season.

In a couple of earlier posts I mentioned that fast-food chains in Japan have spicy items on their menus  (Click here to read one of those posts)…but fast-food isn’t a traditional Japanese summer tradition of course, and actually their spicy summer foods aren’t extremely popular in Japan (I haven’t even tried any of them).

There are traditional foods that are very popular in Japan during the summer to help you deal with the summer heat.
Some of them are:

冷やし中華 (“Hiyashi Chuuka“). Cold noodles, cucumbers, ham, tomatoes, and cold soy sauce.

スイカ (watermelon)

かき氷 (shaved ice)

ビール (beer)…Popular all year long, of course. But excellent to help you cool down in the summer.

うな丼 (Freshwater eel on rice). This is said to help keep up your stamina in hot weather.

うな丼 (Freshwater eel on rice). I enjoy this dish a lot!

Some other aspects of summer in Japan include:

– the beaches and pools become crowded. Especially in August.

– the numerous summer festivals including 花火 (summer fireworks shows).

insects. The “sound of summer” in Japan is the chirping of the セミ (cicadas). There are also カブト虫 (beetles)…and, unfortunately, ゴキブリ (cockroaches) and (mosquitoes).

蚊取線香 (mosquito repellent incense).

蚊取線香 (mosquito repellent incense) often is shaped like a pig

To stay cool, there’s also ウチワ and 扇子 (types of paper fans), and ジンベイ and ユカタ (traditional Japanese summer clothing).

This isn’t an all-exclusive description of a summer in Japan, of course. It’s difficult to describe…you should come to Japan in each of the seasons and see “four different Japans”.

What’s summer like in your country?

Seventh Evening

7 Jul

Today is 七夕 (Tanabata)…which translates to something like “Seventh evening“.

You can read a little bit about this holiday on my website’s FAQ page.

This holiday came to Japan from China and falls on the seventh day of the seventh month…July 7 on the Western calendar (which Japan uses now), or in late August if you use the Chinese calendar.

Most of Japan celebrates this holiday on July 7…but some cities celebrate it on the date according to the Chinese calendar.

Basically, the story of 七夕 (Tanabata) is that there are a couple of stars on different sides of the sky and they are a couple in love…and the only day in the year that these two stars are near each other is on the seventh day of the seventh month.
So, on this day the couple’s wish comes true and they can be together…for an evening.

For this reason, 七夕 (Tanabata) is sometimes called “The Star Festival“.

I’m not sure how 七夕 (Tanabata) is celebrated in China, but here in Japan people write a wish on a piece of paper and tie it to a bamboo tree (along with other 七夕 (Tanabata) decorations).
And just like the couple’s wish comes true…if you tie your wish to the tree, it’ll come true too.

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There are also 七夕 (Tanabata) festivals all around Japan…some on July 7 and some in August.

The biggest 七夕 (Tanabata) festival on July 7 is in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo.
And the biggest one in August (this year (2009), it’ll be on August 26) is in Sendai.

I have been to the 七夕 (Tanabata) festival near my house a number of times…but I didn’t go this year.

Have you ever been to a 七夕 (Tanabata) festival?
Did you tie your wish to a bamboo tree branch today?

神田祭り

11 May

As I mentioned in the previous post (Click here to see it), for 母の日 (Mothers Day) yesterday my wife and I went on a date and then our daughters prepared a delicious カレーライス (Curry & Rice) dinner!

It was a very nice day.

For our date, my wife and I first stopped by the 神田祭り (Kanda Festival). (Click here to see my short mention about this festival on my Festivals In Tokyo page).

The 神田祭り (Kanda Festival) is one of the three biggest festivals in Tokyo.

From there we went to 吉祥寺 (Kichijouji) in western Tokyo and looked around there.
We had a late lunch at the very popular 「いせや」 (Iseya) restaurant.
This restaurant is famous for it’s やきとり (skewered chicken). It’s not a fancy-type restaurant like those in 表参道 (Omotesandou, Tokyo) or 六本木ヒルズ (Roppongi Hills)…it’s a blue-collar kind of place.
But the food is very good but not expensive…so they have many customers. (Actually, I feel more comfortable in working class type places than in five star restaurants. It’s my style.)

We had a good food…and a few beers. 🙂

After lunch, we looked around some more…then we went home to enjoy the wonderful dinner that my daughters made for Mothers Day!

It was a very nice day.

Here are some photos from the 神田祭り (Kanda Festival):

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Making カルメ焼 ("Karume-yaki")

Making カルメ焼 ("Karume-yaki")

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さ・く・ら・ま・つ・り

5 Apr

Today we went to a nearby 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) and enjoyed a 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) picnic that my wife and daughters made.

Our lunch was おにぎり (rice balls), 卵焼き (Japanese grilled eggs), broccoli, chicken, (strawberries), cookies, and beer*!
It was an excellent picnic lunch!

(*Of course, only my wife and I had beer. Our daughters had tea. 😉 )

Here are some photos we took:

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

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There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

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Drying in the sun

Drying in the sun

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Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

You should visit Asakusa

18 Mar

浅草 (Asakusa) is one of the many parts of Tokyo that I like alot.

It’s a 下町 (traditional downtown area). Famous for the 雷門 (Lightning Gate), 浅草寺 (Sensouji Temple), and the numerous excellent (festivals) that are held there.

(Click here to read a post I wrote about 浅草 (Asakusa)).

Starting today, for the next few weeks, there will alot going on in 浅草 (Asakusa).

  • Today (March 18): 金竜の舞い (Golden Dragon Festival).
    This is held every year on March 18. I have been to this festival a few times when the date fell on a weekend. I have to work today, so I can’t go this year…but, if you can make it—I recommend it.
    Click here to read about it on my Festivals In Tokyo page.
  • Sunday, March 22, 2009: Tokyo Marathon.
    An annual international marathon with runners from all over the world racing through the streets of Tokyo.
    The course brings them past the 雷門 (Lightning Gate) in 浅草 (Asakusa).

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  • Late March – Early April: 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing).
    This traditional event is done all over Japan. One popular location is near the 隅田川 (Sumida River) in 浅草 (Asakusa).
    (Last year, I wrote a few posts about 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing). Click here to read one.)
  • Sunday, April 12, 2009: 白鷺の舞い (White Heron Dance).
    A famous 浅草 (Asakusa) festival.

    「白鷺の舞い」 (White Heron Dance)

    「白鷺の舞い」 (White Heron Dance)

  • Saturday, April 18, 2009: 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery).
    An exciting ancient Japanese archery display that involves the archers shooting arrows at targets while riding a galloping horse.
    (I have seen 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery) a number of times. Last year, I wrote a post about the 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery) at 浅草 (Asakusa). Click here to read it.)

There are plenty of other great festivals in 浅草 (Asakusa) throughout the year. But these are the ones that are coming up.

Have you ever been to any of these festivals in 浅草 (Asakusa) before? Will you attend this year? Did you already know about these events?

Open House

13 Sep

Today was my daughters’ 学校公開 (Open School) at their Junior High School.

Today is Saturday, and there’s usually no school on Saturdays…but the school’s open on Saturdays when parents are expected to come (運動会 (Sports Day), concerts, Open School, etc), and then the school is closed the following regular school day (usually the following Monday).

But this Monday is a holiday (敬老の日 (“Respect For The Aged Day” (click here to read my FAQ about it))…so my daughters’ school will be closed on Tuesday, so they can have a three-day weekend like everyone else in Japan (Sunday-Tuesday instead of Saturday-Monday).

I watched my daughters’ English and Art classes. They did very well.

One the way home, my wife and I saw a stray cat with an unusual coat…all brown except for the black fur on his head.

He was a bit mangy…but we still liked him.

Anyways, there are a number of 秋祭 (Autumn Festivals) around Tokyo this weekend, but I probably won’t be going to any of them…we’re pretty busy this weekend. Anyhow, I’ve seen them all at least once each before.