New Year, Valentines Day and Christmas are celebrated in one form or another pretty much all over the world. But what holidays and observances are special to Japan, and what do they represent?
Celebrated on March 3rd, a platform of several tiers adored in a red carpet is bedecked with decorative dolls. Originating in the Heian Period, the dolls represent the Japanese Royal Family and their attendants.
Basically, Valentines Day take two. Held on March 14th, exactly one month after Valentines Day, White Day is the time when boys and men give romantic gifts to the special women in their life. In other cultures, Valentines Day is a reciprocal event with both sexes giving and receiving gifts, but in Japan it’s traditionally just the females that send amorous gifts in February, and then men return the favour in March.
On November 15th is Seven-Five-Three Day, a celebration for all girls aged three and seven, and all boys aged three and five. This special day is a celebration of young people, and hopes for growing up well and having a healthy future. These days, children of the correct ages are dressed in a kimono (and often have hair and make-up artists make them look like models) and they visit shrines in their fancy attire, with many photographs being taken.
In England we celebrate the birthday of the Queen, and likewise in Japan they celebrate the birthday of Emperor Akihito on December 23rd. This is one of the only occasions when the public can enter the Imperial Palace.
Other holidays of note are Shōwa Day (April 29th) which honours the birth date of the previous emperor, Emperor Shōwa, who died in 1989, the Star Festival (July 7th), Sea Day (July 20th) and Respect for the Aged Day (September 3rd).