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    Japanese Customs and Traditions (171 articles)

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    Japan's most famous customs and traditions with photos, videos, stories, background and historical information and travel tips
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  • 27 Mar 2014: Sakura tea 

    Sakura tea
    Sakura is an important part of the daily life in Japan, not only through its flowers but also through derivative products. The wood is valuable and it is used for expensive furniture and decorations, the sakura leafs are used for confectioneries ... »

    116 comments

    15 Mar 2014: Hanami 

    Hanami
    Hanami means "flower viewing" (from hana "flower" and mi "see"), but there's a lot more to this Japanese tradition... On one side, there's meditation and sensitivity to ephemeral beauty... But, on the other side, hanami also means lots of fun and ... »

    122 comments

    03 Mar 2014: Hina Matsuri Dolls 

    Hina Matsuri Dolls
    Although the dolls are dressed in clothes reminding of the Heian Period, the March 3rd Hina Matsuri "Doll Festival" is not that old. The festival first appeared during the Edo Period, inspired by a really old custom, Hina Nagashi ... »

    86 comments

    02 Mar 2014: Japanese crafts, Mizuhiki Paper Cord Art symbolism 

    Japanese crafts, Mizuhiki Paper Cord Art symbolism
    The art of giving gifts in Japan is more sophisticated than anywhere else in the world: it's not only the gift that matters, it is also very important how the gift is presented. For example, the monetary gifts for special occasions like weddings, ... »

    48 comments

    10 Feb 2014: Japanese superstitions, the gate of the evil spirits 

    Japanese superstitions, the gate of the evil spirits
    A very old Japanese superstition said that the evil spirits are coming from northeast. For protection, temples and shrines were built on the northeastern side of the towns, statues of foxes and monkeys were placed towards northeast (to act as ... »

    83 comments

    23 Jan 2014: Japanese superstitions, the broken geta 

    Japanese superstitions, the broken geta
    There are many superstitions in Japan, some original, some "imported"... Here's a very old one, which survived until today: if the cloth strap of a geta (traditional wooden Japanese sandal) snaps, you will have bad luck...Of course, you can ... »

    66 comments

    09 Jan 2014: Daruma Kuyo, burning the good luck charms 

    Daruma Kuyo, burning the good luck charms
    Unlike other religions, where all the sacred items are carefully preserved over the years, the Japanese Shinto tradition requests every year, around the New Year, the replacement of the amulets, charms and New Year's decorations (which are also ... »

    52 comments

    02 Jan 2014: Good luck charms for the New Year, Hamaya 

    Good luck charms for the New Year, Hamaya
    Charms are sold at temples and shrines all year round, but some of them are special, being available only for a limited period. One of these special items, traditionally sold only during the first days of the year, is the hamaya a decorative wooden ... »

    31 comments

    01 Jan 2014: Hatsumode in Kyoto, Yasaka Shrine crowd 

    Hatsumode in Kyoto, Yasaka Shrine crowd
    Hatsumode is the first customary visit of the year to the shrine or temple and even if many Japanese are going during the very first hours of the New Year, it can be performed during the first days of the year.Of course, the important shrines or ... »

    38 comments

    31 Dec 2013: Takarabune, the 7 Lucky Gods treasure ship 

    Takarabune, the 7 Lucky Gods treasure ship
    In Japan, offering gifts is not only tradition, it is also etiquette. And if you're in Japan at the end of the year, you can receive gifts several times: on December 24 from... Santa and on the New Years night from... Hotei, who comes alone or with ... »

    25 comments

    29 Dec 2013: Traditional Japanese New Year decorations, Kagamimochi 

    Traditional Japanese New Year decorations, Kagamimochi
    If a kadomatsu or a shimekazari are difficult to make at home and you still need to go to a flowershop for pine twigs and bamboo, a kagamimochi can be made by anyone. All you need is rice flour and daidai, a Japanese type of bitter orange... ... »

    38 comments

    28 Dec 2013: Traditional Japanese New Year decorations, Shimekazari 

    Traditional Japanese New Year decorations, Shimekazari
    Immediately after December 25, the Christmas ornaments are packed and the traditional Japanese decorations take their place, for Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year, the most important celebration in Japan.But unlike the Christmas decorations, which ... »

    60 comments

    27 Dec 2013: Traditional Japanese New Year decorations, Kadomatsu 

    Traditional Japanese New Year decorations, Kadomatsu
    Unlike most of the Western Christmas decorations, which are generally not linked to a particular story (except for the Star, which comes from the Biblical Magi tradition), the Japanese New Year decorations are filled with complex symbols, very much ... »

    44 comments

    26 Dec 2013: Good luck charms for the New Year, Daruma dolls 

    Good luck charms for the New Year, Daruma dolls
    One of the traditional activities around the New Year in Japan is the shopping for good luck charms and talismans. Regardless if you believe or not, as a tourist you are certainly tempted to buy them as a souvenir, because they are beautiful ... »

    49 comments

    25 Dec 2013: Good luck charms for the New Year, Kumade 

    Good luck charms for the New Year, Kumade
    The Kumade is in fact an entire collection of lucky charms, sticked together on a bamboo rake, for "raking in wealth and good fortune". You can find there kobans (old Japanese oval gold coins), treasure chests (for good luck in business), statues of ... »

    38 comments

    19 Dec 2013: Good luck charms for the New Year, Hagoita 

    Good luck charms for the New Year, Hagoita
    After so many visits to Japan, some Japanese traditions became my own, somehow I feel that some of them are close to my own way of feeling and thought... So I found myself looking forward to buy some lucky charms for the New Year (^_^)I like ... »

    51 comments

    10 Dec 2013: Origami diorama masterpieces, a great place to see and a bit of history 

    Origami diorama masterpieces, a great place to see and a bit of history
    In Japan, the first historical mention of an object made by paper folding - origami (ori means "folding" and kami "paper") - was in a poem from 1680 by Ihara Saikaku, referring to the origami butterflies used to decorate sake bottles at Shinto ... »

    63 comments

    17 Oct 2013: Japanese traditions, Yakudoshi, the Unlucky Years 

    Japanese traditions, Yakudoshi, the Unlucky Years
    It is known that some numbers are considered unlucky in the Japanese tradition: 4 (shi, because it sounds like the word for death), 9 and obviously 13 - which was "borrowed" from the Western tradition. But it is less known that Japan has a ... »

    47 comments

    02 Oct 2013: Japanese traditions, a... 244 years old man 

    Japanese traditions, a... 244 years old man
    The Japanese tradition notes that a man called Takeshiuchi no Sukune served during its lifetime 5 legendary Emperors: he began by serving the Emperor Keiko, between 71 and 130 and he was still in the service of Emperor Nintoku, who reigned between ... »

    33 comments

    22 Sep 2013: Cutest Jizo with red hats 

    Cutest Jizo with red hats
    The Japanese tradition to dress Jizo statues with bibs or hats and to adorn them with toys, comes from the old belief that Jizo is the guardian of children. Jizo is a very friendly deity and to emphasize this idea, during recent times the style of ... »

    37 comments

    13 Sep 2013: Traditional Japanese house, Tatami and some superstitions 

    Traditional Japanese house, Tatami and some superstitions
    Tatami, the traditional floor covering is still omnipresent in the Japanese homes, even in Western-style villas or in modern block apartments. The tatami mat has a long history: in the beginning, it was used only in the rich houses and only parts of ... »

    55 comments

    07 Sep 2013: Japanese traditions, Dosojin 

    Japanese traditions, Dosojin
    In Japan, in intersections, near bridges or just on the side of the road, you may notice large rocks, inscribed or decorated with images of deities. These are called dosojin and their role is to protect the travelers and the surrounding houses ... »

    32 comments

    29 Aug 2013: Mizu-kake Matsuri 

    Mizu-kake Matsuri
    In the midst of the summer, on the streets of Fukagawa, Tokyo, nearby the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine, you can witness Mizu-kake Matsuri, a festival renowned in all Japan, one of the three major Edo festivals, along with the Sanno Festival at Hie ... »

    43 comments

    24 Aug 2013: Shinto traditions, the Sacred Horse 

    Shinto traditions, the Sacred Horse
    Visiting in Japan the larger Shinto shrines, you will sometimes discover a building said to house a horse... but that building is rarely a real stable, like the Shinkyu-Sha from the Toshougu Shrine in Nikko. In most cases, inside there's only the ... »

    38 comments

    22 Aug 2013: Sugidama, the Sake indicator 

    Sugidama, the Sake indicator
    Visiting the traditional areas, in front of some shops, you may notice unusual spheres made of a wood-like material, sometimes over half a meter wide. At the first glance you may think these are some weirdly large wasp nests... Called sugidama, they ... »

    71 comments

    25 Jul 2013: Japanese Customs and Traditions, the Dance of Fools 

    Japanese Customs and Traditions, the Dance of Fools
    In the fourth Saturday and Sunday of July, which this year is tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, for 2 hours after dusk, the streets around the Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji in Kagurazaka, Tokyo will be flooded by frenetic dancers... One of the most ... »

    59 comments

    23 Jul 2013: Old Japanese stories, Kinryu-no-mai and a travel tip 

    Old Japanese stories, Kinryu-no-mai and a travel tip
    Some of the most beautiful legends from Japan are related to dragons living in lakes or rivers, especially when there's a temple or a shrine nearby. One of the oldest is this story from Asakusa: More than 1300 years ago, the area around the ... »

    42 comments

    15 Jul 2013: Meiji Jingu Shinto wedding procession 

    Meiji Jingu Shinto wedding procession
    In Japan there are mainly two types of weddings: the traditional Shinto ceremonies and the Western-style weddings. The Western wedding has become very popular during the past decades, not for religious reasons but because it is more luxurious and ... »

    47 comments

    11 Jul 2013: Japanese Customs and Traditions, Toro nagashi 

    Japanese Customs and Traditions, Toro nagashi
    Soon, in Japan will begin the Obon celebration, one of the oldest and most important Japanese festivals. Depending on the region, Obon takes place in the middle of July or August and it lasts for 3 or 4 days.According to the Japanese tradition, ... »

    80 comments

    07 Jul 2013: Fukinagashi streamers, Tanabata decorations in Shibuya 

    Fukinagashi streamers, Tanabata decorations in Shibuya
    There are many customs and traditions related to Tanabata, the Japanese star festival celebrating the old story of Orihime and Hikoboshi. The most popular custom is to write your wishes on a tanzaku and to hang it on a bamboo branch. Another custom ... »

    66 comments

    18 Jun 2013: Bamboo and Three Friends of Winter 

    Bamboo and Three Friends of Winter
    In the Japanese tradition, a group of 3 plants are know as Suihan Sanyou, the "Three Friends of Winter". The reason is that during winter, while most of the plants are losing their green, the pine (matsu), the bamboo (take) and the plum (ume) ... »

    43 comments

    15 Jun 2013: Kanrensetsu, Lotus flower viewing in Japan 

    Kanrensetsu, Lotus flower viewing in Japan
    Similar to Hanami, the Sakura celebration, in Japan there's also a celebration of Lotus flowers: Kanrensetsu, the Lotus flower viewing.Both these flowers have a deep meaning in the Japanese culture: because it lasts for only a few days, the ... »

    46 comments

    31 May 2013: A Shrine for Beautiful Women 

    A Shrine for Beautiful Women
    Even after all these years of research and travel, the variety of the Japanese spirituality still amazes and delights me... The group of three Shinto goddesses Ichikishimahime no kami, Tagitsuhime no kami and Tagorihime no kami are known in ... »

    40 comments

    25 May 2013: Japanese spiritual architecture, Yakushido Hall 

    Japanese spiritual architecture, Yakushido Hall
    Although Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo, established in 645, only a few of its old buildings survived until today. The oldest of them, Rokkakudo, dates from 1618. The next oldest structure is the Nitenmon Gate, which was built before ... »

    38 comments

    09 May 2013: Japanese Ghost story, the impossible-to-count Bake Jizo 

    Japanese Ghost story, the impossible-to-count Bake Jizo
    Rows of dozens of stone statues representing Jizo Bodhisattva can be found frequently in Japan, but during my travels across Japan I found a few of them really special. One example is the row of statues from the Kanmangafuchi Abyss in Nikko, a ... »

    74 comments

    02 May 2013: Old Japanese Stories, Akabeko 

    Old Japanese Stories, Akabeko
    When you arrive in Aizu-Wakamatsu, right at the JR Station's exit you're greeted by a large red statue, representing a cute red... cow. Meet akabeko 「赤べこ」, the symbol of Aizu.Akabeko means "red cow" and was ... »

    61 comments

    30 Apr 2013: Old Japanese customs, Nonomiya-jinja and the Imperial Princesses 

    Old Japanese customs, Nonomiya-jinja and the Imperial Princesses
    If you visit Kyoto and go to the spectacular Arashiyama bamboo forest (which I highly recommend), you will find a small and beautiful shrine, unique in its kind: in the old times (until the 14th century), there was a custom for one of the Imperial ... »

    33 comments

    08 Apr 2013: Buddha’s Birthday, Hana Matsuri 

    Buddha’s Birthday, Hana Matsuri
    Since today Japan celebrates Buddha’s Birthday, Hana Matsuri (花祭り - the Flower Festival), I would like to share with you a less known statue, a Great Buddha (Daibutsu) I just discovered in Gifu. With a height of over 13 ... »

    32 comments

    27 Mar 2013: Masterpieces of Japanese traditional architecture, Nijiriguchi 

    Masterpieces of Japanese traditional architecture, Nijiriguchi
    Chashitsu, the Japanese traditional tea-houses, are made with two entrances: one is a regular door, while the other is an incredibly small panel, about 65 centimeters tall and 60 centimeters wide...This unique type of door, called nijiriguchi ... »

    100 comments

    25 Mar 2013: The Echo Pond from Kyoto 

    The Echo Pond from Kyoto
    The famous Fushimi Inari Taisha from Kyoto is located at the base of a mountain covered by smaller shrines connected with thousands of torii gates.Towards the top of the mountain, there's a beautiful lake called Kumataka. But the lake is better ... »

    46 comments

    21 Mar 2013: Omamori, Japanese good luck charms 

    Omamori, Japanese good luck charms
    One of the most popular Japanese customs, common to both Shinto and Buddhist traditions, is the use of good luck charms, omamori. Sold at both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, omamori are so popular in Japan that almost anyone has one in its ... »

    58 comments

    03 Mar 2013: Hina Matsuri Traditional Dolls 

    Hina Matsuri Traditional Dolls
    One of the most beautiful celebrations in Japan takes place today: Hina Matsuri - the Doll Festival, a day when the families with girls are displaying a very special set of dolls, hina-ningyō, thus praying for their girl's good health and ... »

    44 comments

    21 Feb 2013: The Moss-Covered God 

    The Moss-Covered God
    The coin offerings box in front of the Buddhist temples (saisenbako) is almost omnipresent in Japan. But there are some unusual cases, when the offerings are of a different kind...At Hozen-ji, a temple located close to the Dotonbori area from ... »

    47 comments

    20 Feb 2013: A Shrine for Romance 

    A Shrine for Romance
    One of the most unusual Japanese customs is the cult of enmusubi 「縁結び」: en means "destiny" and musubi means "to tie together", so enmusubi can be loosely translated as... "matchmaking". I found such shrines in ... »

    47 comments

    31 Jan 2013: The 62nd rebuilding of the most venerable shrine, Ise Jingu 

    The 62nd rebuilding of the most venerable shrine, Ise Jingu
    Everywhere in the world, the old sanctuaries and places of worship are carefully preserved, conserved and protected. Of course, the same is true for Japan... with one huge exception - the Ise Jingū, the most venerable shrine in Japan. Here, ... »

    51 comments

    24 Jan 2013: Shinto Shrines, Saisenbako 

    Shinto Shrines, Saisenbako
    Although with different origin and evolution, Shinto and Japanese Buddhism share some common elements. One of them is the way of receiving the monetary offerings: in front of the main building, you will always find a wooden box called Saisenbako ... »

    60 comments

    15 Jan 2013: Hundreds of statues with hats 

    Hundreds of statues with hats
    In many Japanese Buddhist temples, you will notice rows of dozens or even hundreds of cute stone statues, "dressed" with bibs, various hats and beads... Usually the garments are red, because in the Japanese tradition red is the color used to ward ... »

    43 comments

    14 Jan 2013: Seijin no hi, girls dressed in furisode 

    Seijin no hi, girls dressed in furisode
    In the second Monday of January, Japan celebrates the Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi), a ceremony for the young adults reaching the age of 20 during the current school year. 20 years is the age of adulthood in Japan, the age of the right to vote ... »

    60 comments

    10 Jan 2013: Eating roasted mochi at Dondo Yaki 

    Eating roasted mochi at Dondo Yaki
    In Japan, many religious events, especially the Shinto ones, are ending with a popular party, usually with some specific food. This is by no means a trivialization, everything simply becomes friendlier and more enjoyable... That's a part of Japan's ... »

    47 comments

    07 Jan 2013: Japanese Traditional Architecture, Kirizuma 

    Japanese Traditional Architecture, Kirizuma
    The oldest roof style used in the Japanese traditional architecture is Kirizuma: a roof made simply from two sides connected at the ridge. Kirizuma can be translated as "cut out gable" and it indicates that seen from a side, the wall seems to be cut ... »

    48 comments

    05 Jan 2013: Chinowa 

    Chinowa
    One of the most common customs after the New Year is to buy omamori, small amulets for protection or good luck that can be bought from Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. In fact, the Japanese tradition places a great deal of emphasis on protection ... »

    38 comments

    02 Jan 2013: Demon-breaking arrow, Hamaya 

    Demon-breaking arrow, Hamaya
    If you visit Japan during the first days of the year, you will surely notice many people carrying a quite unusual item, a wooden arrow decorated with small votive plaques. Called hamaya, this is a very special good luck charm, sold at Shinto shrines ... »

    37 comments

    01 Jan 2013: First day of the year, Hatsumode 

    First day of the year, Hatsumode
    On the first day of the year, one of the main events in Japan is the first visit to the shrine or temple, Hatsumode. It can be done during the first days of the year, but many people prefer to do it immediately after midnight. That's why, a few ... »

    44 comments

    31 Dec 2012: Last day of the year, Joya no Kane, 108 Bell Chimes 

    Last day of the year, Joya no Kane, 108 Bell Chimes
    The last day of the year in Japan is called Omisoka. There are many traditions on this day, some related to food (toshi-koshi buckwheat noodles), some even related to... TV shows (the Kōhaku Uta Gassen music contest)... But my favorite ... »

    50 comments

    30 Dec 2012: Takarabune, the 7 Lucky Gods Ship 

    Takarabune, the 7 Lucky Gods Ship
    One of the most beautiful Japanese traditions related to the New Year is the celebration of the Seven Gods of Luck (Shichifukujin), a custom somehow similar to Santa Claus: at the New Year, the Lucky Gods are bringing gifts and good luck to those ... »

    24 comments

    29 Dec 2012: Hagoita 

    Hagoita
    If you're watching Jidaigeki "period dramas" or other Japanese historical movies about the Edo period, you may have noticed brief scenes with girls playing a kind of badminton. That is a traditional game called Hanetsuki, played with hagoita, ... »

    30 comments

    28 Dec 2012: Kumade 

    Kumade
    One of the most popular customs of the New Year in Japan is to buy good luck charms for the year to come. At the same time, the old charms and decorations are brought to temples and shrines to be burned in a ceremony called Dondo yaki.One of ... »

    36 comments

    27 Dec 2012: 2013, the Year of the Snake 

    Like every year at the Tsutenkaku Tower from Osaka, today took place the annual end of the year "zodiac sign replacement" ceremony, where the animals representing the Chinese zodiac signs of the Old Year and the New Year (2013 will be the Year of ... »

    38 comments

    27 Dec 2012: Kagamimochi 

    Kagamimochi
    After the Kadomatsu and the Shimekazari, another traditional Japanese decoration is usually placed inside the house, in the kamidana, but you will also find it in stores, restaurants and institutions. This is the Kagamimochi, a simpler ... »

    55 comments

    26 Dec 2012: Shimekazari 

    Shimekazari
    As I wrote yesterday, the Japanese traditional decorations can bear multiple meanings, each element having its own symbolism. More than this, even the place where the decoration is placed has its own role... Here's shimekazari, a small rope made ... »

    38 comments

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