Greenery Day (みどりの日 Midori no hi). As we have already told in one of our previous articles, this holiday was originally Emperor Hirohito’ s birthday and then actually was named Greenery Day. Since 2007 it is celebrated on May 4 replacing an "empty” holiday between Constitution Memorial Day and Children’s Day.
Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日 Kenpo Kinen-bi). The effective Constitution of Japan that radically
changed the nature and principles of governing the state was enacted on May
3, 1947. Basic provisions of
the Constitution were prepared by US lawyers from occupation forces headquarters,
and though opinion of Japanese politologists and lawyers was taken into account
while drawing up the text, some experts still call this Constitution "pro-American”.
Showa Day (昭和の日, Showa no hi). After accession to the throne of the 124th
emperor of Japan named Hirohito April 29 was set as
a national holiday and was being celebrated as "The Emperor’s Birthday” right
up to his death in 1989. Hirohito’s reigning years have been called Showa
period. After Hirohito’s demise The Public Holiday Law was amended and this
holiday was renamed into the Greenery Day remaining the national public
Vernal Equinox Day (春分の日, Shunbun no hi). Though Vernal Equinox Day became a public holiday only in 1948, this holiday is one of the most ancient Japanese holidays closely associated with religious tradition. On the one hand – it owes its origin to shinto (a tradition of celebrating seasonal changes), on the other hand – to Buddhism (worship of ancestors’ cult). Many Japanese visit their ancestor’s graves, conduct various memorial services and serve ritual dishes on this day. The most well-known dish of the holiday is bota-mochi – rice rolls covered with red beans paste boiled together with sugar.
National Foundation Day (Kenkoku kinen-no-hi). According to Nihonshoki – Japanese Chronicles – it is February
11, 660 BC
when the first emperor of Japan, Jimmu ascended to the throne and by legend
originated Japanese nation. It was celebrated as Empire Day till World War II.
After war this national holiday was abolished, but 20 years later it was
restored in 1966 and since 1967 all Japanese celebrate the birthday of their
country on February 11.
Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi). Japanese have been celebrating this holiday from long ago, though it was established officially only in 1948. Since 2000 the second Monday of January was set as a celebration day. Coming of Age Day is held to congratulate and encourage girls and boys who have reached their age of majority (20 years old in Japan) over the past year. At this age youngsters become adults gaining all their rights and obligations.
New Year’s Day (O-shogatsu). New Year’s Day is the most joyful, cheerful, lively
and colorful holiday usually accompanied with a few days of rest. The word shogatsu itself is the Japanese name
for January, ganjitsu means January
1 – the first day of the year. One cannot describe diversity of Japanese
traditions, rites and ceremonies related to New Year’s Day celebration in Japan.
Perhaps there is no other country that has as many official public holidays as Japan. At present, the special Japanese Public Holiday Law establishes 15 official public holidays as well as their dates. Such a large number of public holidays can be explained partly by Japanese tradition not to take long vacations – maximum up to 10-12 days. Within Japanese firms employee's absence more than stated period of time is considered "displaying no team spirit” and as expression of disloyalty to the company. That is why many Japanese prefer to combine their vacation with public holidays, especially during the so called "Golden Week” celebrated at the beginning of May.
There are two major religions in Japan – Shintoism and Buddhism. But, in fact, none of these religions is "pure" because they historically had been mixing, borrowing and adopting rituals and features both from each other and from various confessions. Therefore some orientalists call religious system existing in Japan Shinto-Buddhist syncretism. Nevertheless they divide into Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples though if you are a layman it is often difficult to identify the difference by exterior.
Traditional Japanese houses are usually one- or two- storeyed buildings. Historically and geographically Japan has not so much territory that is why living spaces here tend to minimalism both in terms of square meters and interior. You should take your shoes off at the hall and put them in order that toes pointed to the entrance. If hosts suggest you slippers, be sure to put them on. If you are going to visit a Japanese house it would be better to take a souvenir (tsumaranai-mono in Japanese) because it is considered to be impolite visiting without a gift.