Being a country known to uphold heritage and tradition, it is not surprising to witness tons of events in Japan meant to honor a religious deity or commemorate a historical event. Over the years, many annual celebrations have attracted the attention of both local and international guests for their sheer grandeur. Here are five of the most stunning and interesting Japanese traditions that never grow old and continue to be among Japan’s pride!
This is locally known as “Toro Nagashi,” an event that is often seen during the Japanese Obon holiday. According to traditional Japanese beliefs, the soul of a loved one comes back to the living world at some point. Floating lanterns are used to somehow symbolize the journey of souls to the afterlife.
Floating lanterns are also seen to commemorate tragic events like the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing.
Given the hundreds of Shinto deities that Japan worships, it goes without saying that their belief in good luck inspired by Buddha and their Shinto gods is also significant. This is why charms and other good luck items are sold in various parts of the country, especially during special occasions.
Dondo yaki, commonly known as the burning of lucky items, is done at Shinto shrines around January as a common practice to encourage charm holders to burn the lucky items they’ve kept for the whole year. In Japanese belief, it is bad luck to throw lucky charms in the trash. Thus, burning these items drives that bad luck away.
The New Year spells out a new beginning for a lot of people, and Japanese locals celebrate this by viewing the first sunrise of the New Year or what they call as “Hatsuhinode.” On January 1, many Japanese families wake up early to witness the beautiful sunrise.
Many celebrate this in groups by preparing a traditional Japanese breakfast banquet. Rituals and various activities also accompany the celebration.
You can’t be too crazy about good and bad luck in Japan. It is a serious matter. Hina Nagashi, or doll floating, is a common practice done on Girls’ Day in Japan. In this event, traditional Japanese dolls are floated on seas or rivers. It is said that bad luck can be transferred from girls to the dolls, and sending those dolls away is a method to drive off bad luck.
Seniority is something that holds great value in Japanese hierarchy. May it be in an office or school setup, being a senior or junior of your group has certain fixed responsibilities that one must take care of. Seniors (senpai) are primarily expected to become role models for their juniors (kohai). The latter, on the other hand, are expected to do menial tasks as part of the process of earning their rightful spot in the team.
Even in Japan’s ancient samurai and military hierarchy, the senpai-kohai dynamic is strictly observed and is respected by any member of a team.
Getting to know the traditions of Japan also opens you to some of the most interesting practices that people do for their religion and heritage. There are tons of other great things you can see on special occasions while touring around the country. Take some time to observe, talk to locals, and experience authentic Japanese practices during your stay!