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Obon di akhir zaman Edo (lukisan dari “Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs”)

Obon (お盆?) adalah serangkaian upacara dan tradisi di Jepang untuk merayakan kedatangan arwah leluhur yang dilakukan seputar tanggal 15 Juli menurut kalender Tempō (kalender lunisolar). Pada umumnya, Obon dikenal sebagai upacara yang berkaitan dengan agama Buddha Jepang, tapi banyak sekali tradisi dalam perayaan Obon yang tidak bisa dijelaskan dengan dogma agama Buddha. Obon dalam bentuk seperti sekarang ini merupakan sinkretisme dari tradisi turun temurun masyarakat Jepang dengan upacara agama Buddha yang disebut Urabon.

Tradisi dan ritual seputar Obon bisa berbeda-beda bergantung pada aliran agama Buddha dan daerahnya.

Di berbagai daerah di Jepang, khususnya di daerah Kansai juga dikenal perayaan Jizōbon yang dilakukan seusai perayaan Obon.

Asal-usul

Permen jelly aneka warna, salah satu persembahan untuk arwah leluhur semasa perayaan Obon

Obon merupakan bentuk singkat dari istilah agama Buddha Urabon (盂蘭盆?) yang hanya diambil aksara Kanji terakhirnya saja ( bon?, nampan) ditambah awalan honorifik huruf “O.” Pada mulanya, Obon berarti meletakkan nampan berisi barang-barang persembahan untuk para arwah. Selanjutnya, Obon berkembang menjadi istilah bagi arwah orang meninggal (shōrō) yang diupacarakan dan dimanjakan dengan berbagai barang persembahan. Di daerah tertentu, Bonsama atau Oshorosama adalah sebutan untuk arwah orang meninggal yang datang semasa perayaan Obon.

Asal-usul tradisi Obon tidak diketahui secara pasti. Tradisi memperingati arwah leluhur di musim panas konon sudah ada di Jepang sejak sekitar abad ke-8.

Sejak dulu di Jepang sudah ada tradisi menyambut kedatangan arwah leluhur yang dipercaya datang mengunjungi anak cucu sebanyak 2 kali setahun sewaktu bulan purnama di permulaan musim semi dan awal musim gugur. Penjelasan lain mengatakan tradisi mengenang orang yang meninggal dilakukan 2 kali, karena awal sampai pertengahan tahun dihitung sebagai satu tahun dan pertengahan tahun sampai akhir tahun juga dihitung sebagai satu tahun.

Di awal musim semi, arwah leluhur datang dalam bentuk Toshigami (salah satu Kami dalam kepercayaan Shinto) dan dirayakan sebagai Tahun Baru Jepang. Di awal musim gugur, arwah leluhur juga datang dan perayaannya secara agama Buddha merupakan sinkretisme dengan Urabon.

Jepang mulai menggunakan kalender Gregorian sejak tanggal 1 Januari 1873, sehingga perayaan Obon di berbagai daerah di Jepang bisa dilangsungkan pada tanggal:

  1. bulan ke-7 hari ke-15 menurut kalender Tempō
  2. 15 Juli menurut kalender Gregorian
  3. 15 Agustus menurut kalender Gregorian mengikuti perhitungan Tsukiokure (tanggal pada kalender Gregorian selalu lebih lambat 1 bulan dari kalender Tempō).

Pada tanggal 13 Juli 1873 pemerintah daerah Prefektur Yamanashi dan Prefektur Niigata sudah menyarankan agar orang tidak lagi merayakan Obon pada tanggal 15 Juli menurut kalender Tempō

Sekarang ini, orang Jepang yang merayakan Obon pada tanggal 15 Juli menurut kalender Tempō semakin sedikit. Pada saat ini, orang Jepang umumnya merayakan Obon pada tanggal 15 Agustus menurut kalender Gregorian.

Orang yang tinggal di daerah Kanto secara turun temurun merayakan Obon pada tanggal 15 Juli kalender Gregorian, termasuk mengunjungi makam pada sebelum tanggal 15 Juli. Pengikut salah satu kuil di Tokyo selalu ingin merayakan Obon pada tanggal 15 Juli sehingga Obon jatuh pada tanggal 15 Juli, sedangkan pengikut kuil di Prefektur Kanagawa selalu ingin merayakan Obon tanggal 15 Agustus sehingga Obon jatuh pada tanggal 15 Agustus.

Media massa memberitakan perayaan Obon pada tanggal 15 Agustus sehingga orang di seluruh Jepang menjadi ikut-ikutan merayakan Obon pada tanggal 15 Agustus.

Obon pada akhirnya bukan lagi merupakan upacara keagamaan yang merayakan kedatangan arwah leluhur melainkan hari libur musim panas yang dinanti-nanti banyak orang di Jepang. Sekarang Obon lebih banyak diartikan sebagai kesempatan pulang ke kampung halaman untuk bertemu sanak saudara dan membersihkan makam. Obon sama artinya dengan liburan musim panas bagi orang Jepang yang tidak mengerti tradisi agama Buddha.

Ada kemungkinan perayaan Obon mendapat pengaruh dari orang yang mengartikan peristiwa bintang jatuh (hujan meteor) sebagai kedatangan arwah leluhur. Di dalam beberapa kebudayaan, arwah orang yang sudah meninggal sering diumpamakan berubah menjadi bintang, sedangkan peristiwa bintang jatuh paling banyak terjadi bertepatan dengan hujan meteor Perseid tahunan yang mencapai puncaknya beberapa hari sebelum tanggal 15 Agustus.

Tanggal 15 Agustus bagi agama Katolik merupakan hari raya Santa Perawan Maria diangkat ke surga yang banyak dirayakan di Eropa Selatan, Amerika Tengah dan Amerika Selatan. Perayaan Obon pada tanggal 15 Agustus juga bertepatan dengan hari peringatan berakhirnya perang (Shūsen kinenbi) yang di luar Jepang dikenal sebagai V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day).

Tradisi yang umum

Tradisi dalam merayakan Obon berbeda-beda tergantung pada daerahnya, tapi ada beberapa tradisi yang umumnya dilakukan orang di seluruh Jepang.

Urut-urutan ritual

Orang Jepang percaya arwah orang yang meninggal pulang untuk merayakan Obon ke rumah yang pernah ditinggalinya. Pada tanggal 13 Agustus, anak cucu yang mengharapkan kedatangan leluhur membuat api kecil di luar rumah yang disebut Mukaebi untuk menerangi jalan pulang bagi arwah leluhur. Pada masa lokasi makam masih berdekatan dengan lokasi permukiman, orang zaman dulu sering harus pergi sampai ke makam untuk menyambut kedatangan arwah leluhur.

Setelah arwah leluhur sampai di rumah yang dulu pernah ditinggalinya, pendeta agama Buddha dipanggil untuk membacakan sutra bagi arwah leluhur yang baru saja datang. Sutra yang dibacakan oleh pendeta Buddha sewaktu Obon disebut Tanagyō karena dibacakan di depan altar berisi barang persembahan yang disebut shōrōdana (shōryōdana) atau tana.

Pada tanggal 16 Agustus, arwah leluhur pulang ke alam sana dengan diterangi dengan api yang disebut Okuribi.

Bon Odori

Acara menari bersama yang disebut Bon Odori (盆踊り? tari Obon) dilangsungkan sebagai penutup perayaan Obon. Pada umumnya, Bon Odori ditarikan bersama-sama tanpa mengenal jenis kelamin dan usia di lingkungan kuil agama Buddha atau Shinto. Konon gerakan dalam Bon Odori meniru arwah leluhur yang menari gembira setelah lepas dari hukuman kejam di neraka.

Bon Odori merupakan puncak dari semua festival musim panas (matsuri) yang diadakan di Jepang. Pelaksanaan Bon Odori memilih saat terang bulan yang kebetulan terjadi pada tanggal 15 Juli atau 16 Juli menurut kalender Tempō. Bon Odori diselenggarakan pada tanggal 16 Juli karena pada malam itu bulan sedang terang-terangnya dan orang bisa menari sampai larut malam.

Belakangan ini, Bon Odori tidak hanya diselenggarakan di lingkungan kuil saja dan penyelenggaranya sering tidak ada hubungan sama sekali dengan organisasi keagamaan. Bon Odori sering dilangsungkan di tanah lapang, di depan stasiun kereta api atau di ruang-ruang terbuka tempat orang banyak berkumpul.

Di tengah-tengah ruang terbuka, penyelenggara mendirikan panggung yang disebut Yagura untuk penyanyi dan pemain musik yang mengiringi Bon Odori. Penyelenggara juga sering mengundang pasar kaget untuk menciptakan keramaian agar penduduk yang tinggal di sekitarnya mau datang. Bon Odori juga sering digunakan sebagai sarana reuni dengan orang-orang sekampung halaman yang pergi merantau dan pulang ke kampung untuk merayakan Obon.

Belakangan ini, jam pelaksanaan Bon Odori di beberapa tempat yang berdekatan sering diatur agar tidak bentrok dan perebutan pengunjung bisa dihindari. Penyelenggara Bon Odori di kota-kota sering mendapat kesulitan mendapat pengunjung karena penduduk yang tinggal di sekitarnya banyak yang sedang pulang kampung. Ada juga penyelenggara yang sama sekali tidak menyebut acaranya sebagai Bon Odori agar tidak dikait-kaitkan dengan acara keagamaan.

Hatsu-obon dan Niibon

Hatsu-obon atau Niibon adalah sebutan untuk perayaan Obon yang baru pertama kali dialami oleh arwah orang meninggal yang baru saja peringatan 49 harinya selesai diupacarakan. Perlakuan khusus diberikan untuk arwah yang baru pertama kali merayakan Obon dalam bentuk pembacaan doa yang lebih banyak.

Tradisi Hatsu-obon berbeda-beda tergantung pada daerahnya. Di daerah tertentu, orang yang tinggal di rumah yang baru saja mengalami kematian biasanya memasang lampion berwarna putih di depan pintu masuk rumah dan di makam.

Tradisi di berbagai daerah

Ada berbagai tradisi unik di berbagai tempat di Jepang sehubungan dengan perayaan Obon.

  • Kendaraan dari terong dan ketimun

Di daerah tertentu ada tradisi membuat kendaraan semacam kuda-kudaan yang disebut Shōryō-uma dari terong dan ketimun. Empat batang korek api atau potongan sumpit sekali pakai (waribashi) ditusukkan pada terong dan ketimun sebagai kaki. Terong berkaki menjadi “sapi” sedangkan ketimun menjadi “kuda” yang kedua-duanya dinaiki arwah leluhur sewaktu datang dan pulang. Kuda dari ketimun bisa lari cepat sehingga arwah leluhur bisa cepat sampai turun ke bumi, sedangkan sapi dari terong hanya bisa berjalan pelan dengan maksud agar arwah leluhur kalau bisa tidak usah cepat-cepat pulang.

  • Mendoakan setan lapar

Di beberapa daerah dilangsungkan upacara Segaki di kuil agama Buddha untuk menolong Gaki (setan kelaparan) dengan mendirikan pendirian altar yang disebut Gakidana dan mendoakan arwah orang yang meninggal di pinggir jalan.

  • Lampion Obon

Ada daerah yang mempunyai tradisi memajang lampion perayaan Obon yang disebut Bon Chochin dengan maksud agar arwah leluhur bisa menemukan rumah yang dulu pernah ditinggalinya. Bon Chochin terbuat dari washi dengan kaki penyangga dari kayu.

  • Melarung lampion

Beberapa daerah memiliki tradisi Tōrōnagashi berupa pelarungan lampion dari washi di sungai sebagai lambang melepas arwah leluhur untuk kembali ke alam sana. Ada daerah yang mempunyai tradisi Shōrōnagashi yang menggunakan kapal kecil untuk memuat lampion sebelum dilarung di sungai.

Liburan Obon

Liburan tidak resmi di Jepang sebelum dan sesudah hari raya Obon disebut liburan Obon (Obonyasumi) yang lamanya tergantung pada keputusan masing-masing perusahaan. Kantor-kantor dan pemilik usaha biasanya meliburkan karyawannya sebelum dan sesudah tanggal 15 Agustus selama 3 sampai 5 hari.

Acara Obon di berbagai daerah

Daerah Tohoku

Funekko Nagashi (kota Morioka dan kota Tōno)
Tiga Bon Odori terbesar:

Kemanai Bon Odori di kota Kazuno (21-23 Agustus)
Hitoichi Bon Odori di kota Hachirōgata (18-20 Agustus)
Nishimonai Bon Odori di kota Ugo (16-18 Agustus)
Bon Odori yang diselenggarakan di kota Miharu memiliki panggung (yagura) untuk penyanyi dan pemusik yang unik.

Daerah Kanto

Hyakuhatō Nagashi di kota Tochigi
Tsukuda no Bon Odori

Daerah Tokai

Gujō Odori di kota Gujō

Daerah Kansai

Gozan no Okuribi di kota Kyoto
Nara Daimonji Okuribi di kota Nara

Daerah Chugoku

Lampion Bontōrō di daerah Aki

Daerah Shikoku

Awa Odori di kota Tokushima

Daerah Kyushu

Chankoko Odori di kota Gotō
Shōrōnagashi di beberapa tempat
Kembang api yang dinyalakan sejak siang hari di makam
Eisa di berbagai tempat
Angama di kota Ishigaki

Di luar Jepang

Bon Odori sebagai pengenalan terhadap kebudayaan Jepang juga diselenggarakan di Jakarta. Di Penang dan Shah Alam, Bon Odori sudah merupakan acara tahunan untuk memperkenalkan makanan dan minuman khas Jepang.

Orang Jepang yang tinggal di Los Angeles dan Honolulu juga merayakan Obon dengan menarikan Bon Odori.

traditional dances in Japan, but the one of the most famous and common dance is Bon dance, which is called “Bon Odori” in Japanese. People dance Bon Dance in the Bon Festival. The Bon Festival is held every summer, in every district in every city.

Bon means welcoming ancestors’ souls and holding a memorial service for the souls. There is a Bon week in August every year, and Bon continues for about a week. During Bon, sometimes all relatives of family gather and hold a memorial service for their ancestors, and enjoy being in a reminiscent mood. This traditional comes from Buddhism in China.

The Bon Festival is held during in Bon week, and people gathers at the near open-space or the parks, and dance with traditional Japanese music. The music should be happy music to welcome the ancestor’s souls, and people have a duty to make a happy, mysterious, and welcoming mood. Moreover, the Bon Dance should be held in the night because Japanese people believe that ancestors’ souls come back in the night.

The technology in Japan has developed in a hundred years, but Japanese people have never forgotten the traditional heart, and taking place Bon Festival and Bon Dance every summer. Japanese people will continue to venerate this traditional, and to respect the soul of their ancestors.

Hanami (meaning flower viewing) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, nearly always meaning cherry blossoms (sakura) or less often peach (ume).

From late March to early April (early May on Hokkaido), sakura bloom all over Japan. The blossom forecast is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week.

In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura, which are considered pretty in daylight and enchanting at night. Hanami at night is called yozakura (literally “night sakura”). In many places such as Ueno Park temporary paper lanterns are hung for the purpose of yozakura.



Cherry blossom festivities, Ueno Park, Tokyo

The practice of hanami is many centuries old. The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–784) when the Chinese Tang Dynasty influenced Japan in many ways; one of which was the custom of enjoying flowers. Though it was ume blossoms that people admired in the beginning, by the Heian Period, sakura came to attract more attention. From then on, in tanka and haiku, “flowers” meant “sakura.”

Hanami was first used as a term analogous to cherry blossom viewing in the Heian era novel Tale of Genji. Whilst a wisteria viewing party was also described, from this point on the terms “hanami” and “flower party” were only used to describe cherry blossom viewing.

Sakura originally was used to divine that year’s harvest as well as an announcer of the rice-planting season. People believed in gods’ existence inside the trees and made offerings at the root of sakura trees. Afterwards, they partook of the offering with sake.

Emperor Saga of Heian Period adopted this and held flower-viewing parties with sake and feasts underneath the blossoming boughs of sakura trees in the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Poems would be written praising the delicate flowers, which were seen as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful yet fleeting and ephemeral. This is said to be the start of hanami.

The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court but soon spread to samurai society and by the Edo period to the common people as well. Tokugawa Yoshimune planted areas of cherry blossom trees to encourage this. Under the sakura trees, they had lunch and drank sake in cheerful feasts.

Today, people continue with the tradition of Hanami, gathering in great numbers wherever the flowering trees are found. Thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night. In more than half of Japan, the cherry blossoming period coincides with the beginning of the scholastic and fiscal years, and so welcoming parties are often opened with hanami.

It is quite common to see junior office workers seated alone on blue groundsheets reserving cherry blossom party space for senior co-workers.

Reflection photo of cherry blossom trees from Japanese sakura festival

Reflection photo of cherry blossom trees Japanese sakura festival

Colorful vibrant photo of Japanese sakura flower against blue sky

Colorful photo Japanese sakura flower against blue sky photo

Vivid pink Japanese cherry blossom flowers on beautiful sakura tree

Vivid pink Japanese sakura cherry blossom flowers photo

Beautifully backlit white Japanese Sakura flowers

Beautifu white Japanese Sakura flowers picture

Dreamy white Japanese cherry blossom flowers hanging from sakura tree branch

white Japanese cherry blossom flowers hanging from sakura tree branch

Japanese sakura cherry blossom flower petals in macro closeup photo

Japanese sakura cherry blossom flower petals closeup photo

Romantic photo composition of flowering Japanese cherry blossom tree branch

Romantic photo flowering Japanese cherry blossom tree branch

Pure white blooming Japanese cherry blossom flowers photo

Pure white blooming Japanese cherry blossom flowers photo

Beautiful sunny photo of white Japanese cherry blossom flowers

Beautiful sunny photo of white Japanese cherry blossom flowers photo

Bunches of gorgeous blooming white Japanese sakura flowers

Bunches of gorgeous blooming white Japanese sakura flowers photo

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Stalls selling food or toys are a familiar sight at festivals throughout Japan.

Gold and platinum plated mikoshi in Kichijōji.

Mikoshi Parade In Kamakura Japan 2007

This mikoshi enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Tōshō-gū in Nikkō. Participants carry the mikoshi during the spring and autumn matsuri of the shrine.

The procession of a thousand warriors is the highlight of the autumn festival at Toshogu in Nikko.

Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals but have undergone dramatic changes as they mixed with local customs.These Japanese festival has deep root in Nepal.Concept of these festivals transported to China from Nepal then from China to Japan. Nepal has same festival as in Japan till today like Machendra Jatra, Indra Jatra.

Some are so different that they do not even remotely resemble the original festival despite sharing the same name and date. There are also various local festivals (e.g. Tobata Gion) that are mostly unknown outside a given prefecture. It is commonly said that you will always find a festival somewhere in Japan.

Unlike most people of East Asian descent, Japanese people generally do not celebrate Chinese New Year (it having been supplanted by the Western New Year’s Day in the late 19th century); although Chinese residents in Japan still do. In Yokohama Chinatown, Japan’s biggest Chinatown, tourists from all over Japan come to enjoy the festival. And similarly the Nagasaki Lantern Festival [1] is based in Nagasaki‘s China town. See: Japanese New Year.

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Events within festivals

Festivals are often based around one or two main events, with food stalls, entertainment, and carnival games to keep people entertained. Some are based around temples or shrines, others hana-bi (Fireworks), and still others around contests where the participants sport loin cloths (see: Hadaka Matsuri).

Local festivals (Matsuri)

Matsuri (?) is the Japanese word for a festival or holiday. In Japan, festivals are usually sponsored by a local shrine or temple, though they can be secular.

There is no specific matsuri days for all of Japan; dates vary from area to area, and even within a specific area, but festival days do tend to cluster around traditional holidays such as Setsubun or Obon. Almost every locale has at least one matsuri in late summer/early autumn, usually related to the rice harvest.

Notable matsuri often feature processions which may include elaborate floats. Preparation for these processions is usually organized at the level of neighborhoods, or machi. Prior to these, the local kami may be ritually installed in mikoshi and paraded through the streets.

One can always find in the vicinity of a matsuri booths selling souvenirs and food such as takoyaki, and games, such as Goldfish scooping. Karaoke contests, sumo matches, and other forms of entertainment are often organized in conjunction with matsuri. If the festival is next to a lake, renting a boat is also an attraction.

Favorite elements of the most popular matsuri, such as the Nada Kenka Matsuri of Himeji or the Neputa Matsuri of Hirosaki, are often broadcast on television for the entire nation to enjoy.

Some examples of famous matsuri are the Jidai, Aoi and Gion Matsuri held in Kyoto; Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka; and the Kanda Matsuri, Sannō and Sanja Matsuri of Tokyo. Especially, Gion Matsuri, Tenjin Matsuri, and Kanda Matsuri are the three most famous Matsuri in Japa Nationwide festivals

[edit] Fixed days

Multiple days

  • Setsubun : division of season (beginning of each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter)
  • Ennichi : temple fair (holy days related to Kami and/or Buddha)

Bunkasai

New Year (正月 Shōgatsu)?)

Date: 1-3 of January (related celebrations take place throughout January)

Other Names: Oshōgatsu (O is an honorific prefix)

Information: New Year observances are the most important and elaborate of Japan’s annual events. Before the New Year, homes are cleaned, debts are paid off, and osechi (food in lacquered trays for the New Year) is prepared or bought. Osechi foods are traditional foods which are chosen for their lucky colors, shapes, or lucky-sounding names in hopes of obtaining good luck in various areas of life during the new year. Homes are decorated and the holidays are celebrated by family gatherings, visits to temples or shrines, and formal calls on relatives and friends. The first day of the year (ganjitsu) is usually spent with members of the family.

People try to stay awake and eat toshikoshisoba, which is soba noodles that would be eaten to at midnight. People also visit Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Traditionally three shrines or temples are visited. This is called sansha-mairi. In the Imperial Palace at dawn on the 1st of January, the emperor performs the rite of shihōhai(worship of the four quarters), in which he does reverence in the direction of various shrines and imperial tombs and offers prayers for the well-being of the nation. On January 2 the public is allowed to enter the inner palace grounds; the only other day this is possible is the emperor’s birthday (December 23). On the 2nd and 3rd days acquaintances visit one another to extend greetings (nenshi) and sip otoso (a spiced rice wine). Some games played at New Year’s are karuta (a card game), hanetsuki (similar to badminton), tako age (kiteflying), and komamawashi (spinning tops). These games are played to bring more luck for the year. Exchanging New Year’s greeting cards (similar to Christmas Cards in Western countries) is another important Japanese custom. Also special allowances are given to children, which are called otoshidama. They also decorate their entrances with kagami-mochi (2 mochi rice balls placed one on top of the other, with a tangerine on top), and kadomatsu (pine tree decorations).

A later New Year’s celebration, Koshōgatsu, literally means “Small New Year” and starts with the first full moon of the year (around January 15). The main events of Koshōgatsu are rites and practices praying for a bountiful harvest.

Doll Festival (雛祭り?)

Date: 3 March

Other Names: Sangatsu Sekku (3rd month Festival), Momo Sekku (Peach Festival), Joshi no Sekku (Girls’ Festival)

Information: This is the day families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful. The celebration takes place both inside the home and at the seashore. Both parts are meant to ward off evil spirits from girls. Young girls put on their best kimonos and visit their friends’ homes. Tiered platforms for hina ningyō (hina dolls; a set of dolls representing the emperor, empress, attendants, and musicians in ancient court dress) are set up in the home, and the family celebrates with a special meal of hishimochi (diamond-shaped rice cakes) and shirozake (rice malt with sake).

Hanami (花見?)

Hanami party along Sakai River in Beppu, Oita

Date: April

Other Names: Hanami (flower viewing), Cherry Blossom Festival

Information: Various flower festivals are held at Shinto shrines during the month of April. Excursions and picnics for enjoying flowers, particularly cherry blossoms are also common. In some places flower viewing parties are held on traditionally fixed dates. This is one of the most popular events during spring. The subject of flower viewing has long held an important place in literature, dance and the fine arts. Ikebana (flower arrangement) is also a popular part of Japanese culture and is still practiced by many people today. Some main things people do during this event are: games, folk songs, folk dance, flower displays, rides, parades, concerts, kimono shows, booths with food and other things, beauty pageant, and religious ceremonies.

Boy’s Day (子供の日 Kodomo no hi?)

Date: 5 May

Other Names: Iris Festival (菖蒲の節句 Shōbu no Sekku?), Tango Festival (端午の節句 Tango no Sekku?)

Information: May is the month of the Iris Festival. The tall-stemmed Japanese iris is a symbolic flower. Its long, narrow leaves resemble the sharp blades off a sword, and for many centuries it has been the custom to place iris leaves in a boy’s bath to give him a martial spirit. Originally May 5th was a festival for boys corresponding to the Doll Festival, for girls, but in 1948 it was renamed Children’s Day, and made a national holiday. However, this might be a misnomer; the symbols of courage and strength mainly honor boys. It is customary on this day for families with male children to fly koinobori (carp streamers, a symbol of success) outside the house, display warrior dolls (musha ningyō) inside, and eat chimaki (rice cakes wrapped in cogan grass or bamboo leaves) and kashiwamochi (rice cakes filled with bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves). Also known as kodomo no hi

[edit] Tanabata (七夕?)

Date: 7 July

Other Names: The Star Festival
Information: It originated from a Chinese folk legend concerning two stars-the Weaver Star (Vega) and the Cowherd Star (Altair)-who were said to be lovers who could meet only once a year on the 7th night of the 7th month provided it didn’t rain and flood the Milky Way. It was named Tanabata after a weaving maiden from a Japanese legend who was believed to make clothes for the gods. People often write wishes and romantic aspirations on long, narrow strips of coloured paper and hang them on bamboo branches along with other small ornaments.

Bon Festival ( bon?)

Date: 13-15 August

Other Names: urabon (盂蘭盆?)

Information: A Buddhist observance honoring the spirits of ancestors. Usually a “spirit altar” (shōryōdana) is set up in front of the Butsudan (buddhist family altar) to welcome the ancestors’ souls. A priest is usually asked to come and read a sutra (tanagyō). Among the traditional preparations for the ancestors’ return are the cleaning of grave sites and preparing a path from them to the house and the provision of straw horses or oxen for the ancestors’ transportation. The welcoming fire (mukaebi) built on the 13th and the send-off fire (okuribi) built on the 16th are intended to light the path.

“7-5-3” Festival (七五三 Shichigosan?)

Date: 15 November

Information: Five-year-old boys and seven- or three-year-old girls are taken to the local shrine to pray for their safe and healthy future. This festival started because of the belief that children of certain ages were especially prone to bad luck and hence in need of divine protection. Children are usually dressed in traditional clothing for the occasion and after visiting the shrine many people buy chitose-ame (“thousand-year candy”) sold at the shrine.

[edit] Preparation for the New Year and Year-end fair

Date: late December

Other Names: Year-end (年の瀬 toshi no se?),Year-end Fair (年の市 Toshi no Ichi?)

Information: Preparations for seeing in the new year were originally undertaken to greet the toshigami, or deity of the incoming year. These began on the 13th of December, when the house was given a thorough cleaning; the date is usually nearer the end of the month now. The house is then decorated in the traditional fashion: A sacred rope of straw (shimenawa) with dangling white paper strips (shide) is hung over the front door to prevent evil spirits from entering and to show the presence of the toshigami. It is also customary to place kadomatsu, an arrangement of tree sprigs, beside the entrance way. A special altar, known as toshidana (“year shelf”), is piled high with kagamimochi (flat, round rice cakes), sake (rice wine), persimmons, and other foods in honor of the toshigami. A fair is traditionally held in late December at shrines, temples or in local neighborhoods. This is in preparation for the new year holidays. Decorations and sundry goods are sold at the fair. Originally these year-end fairs provided opportunities for farmers, fisherfolk and mountain dwellers to exchange goods and buy clothes and other necessities for the coming year.

Ōmisoka (大晦日 Ōmisoka?)

Date: 31 December

Information: People do the general house cleaning (Ōsōji) to welcome coming year and not to keep having impure influences. Many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight (joya no kane). This is to announce the passing of the old year and the coming of the new. The reason they are rung 108 times is because of the Buddhist belief that human beings are plagued by 108 earthly desires or passions (bonnō). With each ring one desire is dispelled. It is also a custom to eat zaru-soba in the hope that one’s family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

See also

References

External links

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sakura” redirects here. For other uses, se  (Redirected from Sakura)

e Sakura (disambiguation).

“Cherry Blossom” redirects here Jump to: navigation, search

. For other uses, see Cherry Blossom (disambiguation).

Scientific classification

Kingdom:

Plantae

Division:

Magnoliophyta

Class:

Magnoliopsida

Order:

Rosales

Family:

Rosaceae

Subfamily:

Prunoideae

Genus:

Prunus

Species

Prunus serrulata (Prunus jamasakura)
Prunus speciosa
Prunus × yedoensis
Prunus sargentii

Cherry Blossom Viewing

Hanami is one of the most popular events of Spring. Crowds of people – families, groups of friends, and groups from companies sit under the fully open cherry blossoms, usually on plastic tarps, and have a picnic celebration. The picnic fare consists of a wide variety of foods, snack foods, and sake (rice wine) or other drinks. The activities often include dancing and karaoke in addition to the cherry blossom viewing. In very popular places such as Ueno park and Aoyama Cemetary in Tokyo the competition for prime picnic spots is intense. Company groups and family members claim spots by arriving very early in the morning and sitting all day long until the real celebrations begin in the evening. It is not unusual to see a young man in a business suit sitting under a cherry tree early in the morning reserving a space for his company. The new employees are traditionally given this job of sitting all day long to reserve space for the company celebration.

In Japan, April is the beginning of the school year as well as the business financial year. Since the Heian Period (794-1185) flower-viewing parties were popular among the aristocracy. In the Azuchi Momoyama Period (1568-1600) the cherry blossom viewing spread out to the rest of the population.

is the hiragana (phonetic) spelling of hanami. Notice the three syllables:

ha – na – mi

This is a map of Japan showing the predictions of when and where the cherry blossoms will appear. Notice the numbers – they correspond to dates. 3.31 is March 31. For the Tokyo area, it is predicted that the cherry blossoms will be blooming between March 28 and March 31.

Cherry buds on March 8 – Cherry buds on March 15 – – – – – Cherry buds on March 23

Cherry buds on March 26 – – – – Almost! March 28 – – – – They’re here . . . March 30

(花見?, lit. “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, “flower” in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms (桜 or 櫻 sakura?), or ume blossoms ( ume?). From late March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan. The blossom forecast (桜前線 sakurazensen?, lit. cherry blossom front) is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two. In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or at night. Hanami at night is called yozakura (lit. “night sakura”). In many places such as Ueno Park temporary paper lanterns are hung for the purpose of yozakura.

[edit] History

Close up of ume blossoms

The practice of hanami is many centuries old. The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when the Chinese Tang Dynasty influenced Japan in many ways; one of which was the custom of enjoying flowers. Though it was ume blossoms that people admired in the beginning, by the Heian Period, sakura came to attract more attention. From then on, in tanka and haiku, “flowers” meant “sakura.”

Hanami was first used as a term analogous to cherry blossom viewing in the Heian era novel Tale of Genji. Whilst a wisteria viewing party was also described, from this point on the terms “hanami” and “flower party” were only used to describe cherry blossom viewing.

Hanami in Ōita

Sakura originally was used to divine that year’s harvest as well as an announcer of the rice-planting season. People believed in gods’ existence inside the trees and made offerings at the root of sakura trees. Afterwards, they partook of the offering with sake.

Emperor Saga of the Heian Period adopted this practice, and held flower-viewing parties with sake and feasts underneath the blossoming boughs of sakura trees in the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Poems would be written praising the delicate flowers, which were seen as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful yet fleeting and ephemeral. This was said to be the origin of hanami in Japan.

Close up of cherry blossoms

The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samurai society and, by the Edo period, to the common people as well. Tokugawa Yoshimune planted areas of cherry blossom trees to encourage this. Under the sakura trees, people had lunch and drank sake in cheerful feasts.

Today, the Japanese people continue the tradition of hanami, gathering in great numbers wherever the flowering trees are found. Thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night. In more than half of Japan, the cherry blossoming period coincides with the beginning of the scholastic and fiscal years, and so welcoming parties are often opened with hanami. The Japanese people continue the tradition of hanami by taking part in the processional walks through the parks. This is a form of retreat for contemplating and renewing their spirits.

The teasing proverb dumplings rather than flowers (花より団子 hana yori dango?) hints at the real priorities for most cherry blossom viewers, meaning that people are more interested in the food and drinks that accompany a hanami party rather than actually viewing the flowers themselves. (A punning variation, Boys Over Flowers (花より男子 Hana Yori Dango?), is the title of a manga and anime series.)

Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees! is a popular saying about hanami, after the opening sentence of the 1925 short story “Under the Cherry Trees” by Motojirō Kajii.

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