Spring which starts in March and stays till May is a very busy period in Japan. It is also the season when the most beautiful festival Hanami is celebrated. The Sakura trees (or the cherry blossoms) all over Japan come into bloom for between seven to ten days. People hold outdoor parties to view the cherry blossoms. Hanami is like a party to celebrate new beginning.
Hinamatsuri the doll festival is also celebrated this season.It is also called ‘Girl’s Day’. Formerly people believed that the dolls could contain bad spirits. So Hinamatsuri was celebrated to set afloat some straw dolls down a river or sea and this would supposedly take away bad spirits and evil.
Summer months are June, July, and August. Summer is very hot and humid in Japan. There are also many ways of making summer more comfortable. Hanabi displays (fireworks) are held as a way to enjoy the warm summer evenings. Uchimizu (cold water) is sprinkle in gardens or on the road in front of their homes to cool the ground. Sudare (bamboo blinds) are hung between rooms to keep the sunlight out. Goza (straw mats) are used on top of a futon for sleeping . Shishidoshi and fuurin(wind chime) are used to get a pleasing sound.
Cool food like mizuyokan(jelly bean), kikigori (shaved ice) and nagashi somen (cold noodles) are eaten. People wear yukata(cotton/summer kimono) and geta or zori use a uchiwa(round fans) and mugiwara boushi(straw hats).
One of the biggest festival celebrated during summer is the Tanabata or star festival.One popular Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a piece of paper, and hang that piece of paper on a specially erected bamboo tree, in the hope that the wishes become true. Children enjoy the games and festival food, and being carried on shoulders to touch the streamers hanging low while young couples enjoy the romance of it all.
In summer Tango no sekku (children’s day or more accurately the boy’s day) is celebrated. Also in mid August Obon festival honors the deceased spirits of a family’s ancestors.
Autumn months are September, October, and November. After its humid summer, it is the coolest and the most beautiful season. It is the time for the regional aki matsuri (autumn festivals). Most of the autumn festivals in Japan are related to the harvest and fall foliages.
Shichigosan is also celebrated this time. 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.
The other autumn festivals are Nihonmatsu Chochin Matsuri (Lantern Festival), Takayama Autumn Festival, Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (festival of ages). These are held in different prefectures of Japan.
Winter months are December, January, and February. In general, Japan’s winters are relatively mild and dry. It snows in Hokkaido and northern parts of Honshu too. Japan offers excellent Winter Snow Sports, slopes for skiing, The annual Sapporo SnowT Festival is the most famous winter festival in Japan.
There are other local festivals as well, like Nagasaki lantern festival, Oniya fire festival, Lunar new year kite-flying festival, Mito plum festival and many more.
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Credits: The historical information presented herein is gathered mostly from local guides that were re-inforced via historical writings.