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att. Culture - Calendar - Japan Now
att. Culture - Calendar - Japan Now
att.JAPAN Issue 22, May 2005

Calendar - Japan Now - May & June


Most Japanese find their excitement levels increasing as mid-April approaches as they look forward to the Golden Week holidays from the end of April to the beginning of May soon after the start of the new financial year begins on April 1st. Perhaps the best season of year in Japan as fine weather often reigns supreme, many people take a trip or enjoy ever longer periods of outdoor leisure time as the country finds itself under a blanket of fresh greenery and colorful flowers.

 May
May 3rd is Constitution Memorial Day in Japan in memory of The Constitution of Japan first going into effect on this day in 1947.
In recent times Japanese people have been discussing the pros and cons of constitutional amendment with both the supporters of retaining the current constitution as is and advocates of constitutional amendment holding lectures and rallies around the nation at this time.
Carp StreamersCome May 5th Children's Day is upon us once more. Various events are held the length and breadth of the country and as March 3rd is Girl's Festival, May 5th is essentially the boys turn and is usually called the Boy's Festival - notwithstanding the holiday's 'unisex' name of course. Some families with male children put up carp streamers and display warrior dolls adorned in old samurai style helmets while others opt for just helmets or suits of armor and it is said that on this day people wish for their sons' success in life as they watch the healthy and strong carp streamers flying in the wind as the more static warrior dolls with their helmets symbolize a wish for the boys to develop into strong men. Also on this day people take a bath in which they place iris leaves and after which they eat kashiwamochi (a rice cake wrapped in an oak leaf) or chimaki (a rice cake wrapped in bamboo leaves).
Irises The second Sunday of May is Mother's Day in Japan. Mother's Day was initiated in the U.S. at the end of the 19th century and the second Sunday of May was officially set aside as Mother's Day in Japan effective 1947. Traditionally people give their mothers carnations and other presents on this day and department stores and boutiques work hard to sell gifts linked to mothers and "Mother's Day." According to surveys, the market for Japan's Mother's Day gifts and associated items is around 500 trillion yen: 1.25 times as large as the Christmas period expenditure.
May is the Japanese island's season of cool air and fresh greenery. Leaves get brighter as the days pass, spring arrives at last in the northern Tohoku district and Hokkaido and cherry blossoms are at their best at this time in Japan's northernmost areas. Various types of flowers such as wisteria, azalea, poppies, skunk cabbages, roses, irises, hydrangeas and lavender are known to bloom nationwide from May to June and are always to be found somewhere nearby.
Aoi Matsuri Various events are held around Japan in May. People in original costumes parade and dance throughout the town of Hakata while banging shamoji, or wooden rice scoops as the Hakata Dontaku Festival commences in Fukuoka during the Golden Week holidays. The Aoi Matsuri, as was held during the Heian period, (8th – 12th century) is held in Kyoto with its 1km long procession parading from Shimogamo Shrine to Kamigamo Shrine. In Tokyo meanwhile, the Kanda Matsuri of Kanda-Myojin Shrine and the Sanja Matsuri of Asakusa Shrine are held towards the middle of the month and in terms of education, most schools start their new term about now with companies getting under way a little earlier. Also around the start of April, many Japanese fret and frown over whether their chosen college course is the right one for them with educational apathy and sickness often seen side effects. Although such symptoms occur year round, and not only in May, it is remarkable that in May this actually has a name - May Disease, or the depression that afflicts freshmen during the first few months of the new school year.
Two great horse races are held at the Tokyo Racecourse at Fuchu during May. One is The Oaks and is held in mid-May with the second being the Japan Derby; held in late May. These races when coupled with 3 other major races in Japan including Oka Sho in April, Satsuki Sho in April and Kikuka Sho in October are the Classic Races for all three-year-old horses in the Japanese equestrian world.

 June
Most uniform wearing students and company workers in Japan change from winter clothes to lighter and more pastel colored summer clothes around June. While individual families also used to put away their winter clothes and take out summer clothes at this time of year, nowadays some people don't follow this custom as they can wear a T-shirt year round, either on its own in the warmer months or under a sweater in wintertime. That said, some Japanese still wear woolen cardigans to protect against the popular use of air-conditioning in summer while others wear sleeveless tops in winter to combat modern day heating systems; the result being the gradual disappearance of the old tradition of changing clothing as the seasons changed.
Hare Rice planting festivals are held nationwide throughout June and include the famous Hanataue rice planting festival in Mibu, Hiroshima Prefecture. Other festivals, including the notable Yosakoi Soran Festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido, which is as popular as the Sapporo Snow Festival held during wintertime also take place whilst in the animal world decorated horses parade in the Chag Chag Umako Festival, a festival held in appreciation of horses in Iwate Prefecture and Hare, or dragon boat races take place in Okinawa Prefecture.
Tsuyu, the Japanese name for the rainy season begins between mid and late-June and lasts about for a month. There are 3 rainy periods each year in Japan including this 'tsuyu' in early summer, the spring rains and autumn rains. Around this period it is not usually so wet in Hokkaido but this depends on the year. Whilst a cold drizzle persists for the first half of the tsuyu season, more concentrated downpours are standard in the latter half causing many people to go out donning raincoats and rain shoes with an umbrella never far away.
Chugen, or midyear sales, are in full swing by early summer. July 15th on the old calendar was originally called "cyugen" but now chugen is used to refer to the midyear gifts that people give to their superiors at work, relatives at home or those who take care of them.

Midsummer arrives over the Japanese archipelago when the rainy season is over and with it come the hot and muggy days that won't start to cool down until September.

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