Japanese festivities during February
Like every country, Japan has its own days and festivals to celebrate. In this article, Inari will tell you more about the Japanese holidays and festivals that take place during the month of February. In this month, you will see snow, naked people and much more.
National Foundation Day or Kenkoku Kinen no Hi (建国記念の日)
The only public holiday during the month of February in Japan is the National Foundation Day or Kenkoku Kinen no Hi. This holiday is celebrated on the 11th of February and marks the foundation of Japan by the first emperor Jimmu. During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) this was turned into a national holiday of Japan. The focus on the emperor was thought to be a great way to unify Japan and strengthen the state. In 1966 the holiday was re-established but the focus on the emperor was taken away. To this day the holiday is still a symbol for patriotism and nationalism, that is why it is still a somewhat controversial holiday. Most people raise the Japanese flag during this holiday but nothing else special really happens.
The last day before the beginning of spring apparently takes place on the 3rd of February in Japan. On this holiday people perform the practice of mamemaki (豆撒き) or bean scattering. The head of the house throws roasted soy beans out of the house or at a family member wearing a demon mask. This symbolises cleansing the house before the beginning of spring. Afterwards the household eats roasted soybeans to complete the ritual. Each person eats one soybean per year that they lived and one extra for the year to come. Monks at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples also celebrate Setsubun by throwing beans and lighting all the lanterns of the shrine or the temple. All of this is done to scare away wandering spirits that walk on the Japanese ground during this spiritual time of the year.
As you can probably derive from the name of these festivals, these Japanese festivals are all about snow. For the sake of the article we decided to show you two examples.
The first one is the Sapporo Snow Festival that takes place in Sapporo, the capital of the Hokkaido prefecture. During this festival, three different locations in Sapporo are transformed in giant snow and ice sculptures. The biggest location, Odori Park, becomes an amazing snow museum that is more than 1,5 kilometers long. On the International Square, people can participate in the International Snow Statue Contest and in the famous nightspot district Susukino, you can walk past fantastic ice sculptures. Since 2006, people can also visit Sapporo Satorando, a park with attractions for children and much more. This Japanese festival takes place during the second week of February.
The other festival is the Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival that takes place in Yokote, Akita during the 15th and 16th of February. Kamakura are small hills made out of snow that are hollowed out and turned into small houses. In these houses they place an altar for the water gods so the Japanese people can receive plenty of clear water during the following year. This 400 year old tradition’s origin lies in the practice of returning the New Year decorations to the gods by burning them. During the Kamakura Snow Festival, hundreds of these small houses are placed on the hillside and people get invited by children to drink a fermented rice drink and eat rice cakes.
Naked festival or Hadaka Matsuri (裸祭り)
On the third Saturday of February, one of the most peculiar Japanese festivals take place in Okoyama. Being the birthplace of the Naked Festival or the Hadaka Matsuri, Okoyama’s Naked Festival is the most popular one in Japan. Over more than 9,000 men only wearing small loincloths participate in this ceremony. During this festival a priest throws a pair of lucky sticks one by one into the crowd. The person who catches it and sticks it into a wooden measuring box is blessed with a year of happiness. Although there are also a hundred smaller lucky sticks, the competition can get rough. Before the main event, children can participate in a less violent version and the “naked” men parade through the streets to get pumped up for the ceremony.
These are the most important Japanese holidays and festivals that take place in February. If you want to know more about this subject, feel free to contact us or write a comment.
We’ll be back next month to tell you more about the Japanese holidays and festivals that take place during March.