NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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島田飴まつり Shimada-ame-matsuri Shimada Candy Festival

Jp En

Shimada Candy Festival takes place every December 14th at Yoshioka-Hachiman Shrine in Taiwa-cho, Kurokawa-gun, Miyagi Prefecture.
Yoshioka-Hachiman Shrine is said to date back to 1618 when Date Munekiyo, the third son of Date Masamune, and founder of Sendai Clan, moved from Shimokusa to Yoshioka and the shrine was transferred as well and re-built in the current location.
The festival is said to have begun on December 14th sometime between 1615 and 1623 when the priest of the shrine fell in love with a bride with a Shimada wedding hairstyle and he became ill. Villagers, worried about the priest, donated candies in the shape of the Shimada hairstyle to the shrine, and that led to the priest recovering from his illness.
It is believed that the shrine makes love come true and many people, wishing for luck with love, visit the shrine to seek candies.
Shimada Candy Festival is a lively festival crowded with stores selling Shimada hairstyle candies and with many young people wishing for good matchmaking.
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鹽竈神社嘉津良比祭 Shiogama-jinja-katsurai-sai Katsurai Festival at Shiogama Shrine

Jp En

Katsurai Festival is held on December 1 every year at Shiogama Shrine, which used to be listed as the highest-ranked shrine in the southern part of the Tohoku region.

As is also called “Kamimukae-sai (the festival to invite deities),” it originates in the ritual to invite Take Mikazuchi no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami and celebrate their feat of having brought peace and stability to the Tohoku region. Since then, Date Masamune and other powerful warriors who fought for the stability of the region dedicated the rice cake named “Katsurai-mochi” when they made triumphant returns.

Today, the rice cake called “Kabuto-mochi (the rice cake in the shape of a warrior’s helmet)” together with Zoi fish, abalone, pheasant and dried persimmon is offered to the deities and the Yamatomai kagura dance is dedicated. People bring a piece of Kabuto-mochi to their home as a talisman to prevent fires and bad luck and bring safe travels.

At “Naorai,” the feast in which the consecrated offerings of food and drink are consumed by priests and laymen, attendants were served with Zoni (the rice cake soup) with Kiji-mochi, which is made to resemble pheasant meat.
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旧日野宿本陣 Kyu-hinojuku-honjin Old Hinojuku Honjin

Jp En

Old Hinojuku honjin is the only honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) building existing in Tokyo today. The original building was destroyed by fire on New Yea’s Day in 1849. What remains today was rebuilt by the proprietor of honjin and Nanushi (village officer), Sato Hikogoro. The construction works took as long as ten years until 1863. He lived here and reopened honjin in December, 1864. Keenly aware of importance of self-policing at the time of the fire, he enrolled at Tennen Rishin-ryu swordsmanship school. Being conferred full mastership later, he opened a dojo at home, where the members of the Shinsengumi including Kondo Isami, the commander, and Okita Soshi, the captain of the 1st unit, dropped in and practiced kendo on their way to Kyoto. There remains a room where Hikogoro’s younger brother in law, Ichimura Tetsunosuke was provided shelter after he visited Hikogoro to hand him the picture and a personal memento of Hijikata Toshizo, the deputy leader of the Shinsengumi. Old Hinojuku honjin is a historically important place not only as a honjin building but also as the place with many other roles.
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十二月 師走 Juunigatsu Siwasu December, Shiwasu

Jp En

Shiwasu is a Japanese traditional name for December. Shiwasu (師走) literally means “teachers run.” It is a generally accepted interpretation today that everyone gets extremely busy in this month to complete unfinished tasks of the year and prepare for the coming new year including house cleaning and cooking for New Year’s Day. Thus even teachers can’t help running around.

However, the word “Shiwasu” derives from “Shihase-zuki,” which literally means the month when priests visit. In the old days in Japan, December was the time when people held a memorial service for their ancestors just like they do during the Bon period, from which custom it was the month when priests were busy visiting every house of villages or towns.

December is also called Harumachi-zuki, meaning the month to wait for spring, or Kureko-zuki, the year end month. It gets severely cold and quite a few places are attacked by heavy snow. Few plants produce flowers in this month except Camellia sasanqua. Its red flowers add colors to deserted landscapes of the cold winter.
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冬至 Touji Toji (Winter Solstice)

Jp En

A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Toji is the 22nd solar term. It usually begins around December 22nd, the day with the longest night of the year and when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 270°. The month that contains Toji is November on the lunar calendar. When the day of Toji falls on the day of Sakutan (the new moon day, namely the 1st day of the month) once every 19 years, it is called Sakutan Toji. If Toji exactly falls on the 1st day of November on the lunar calendar in the 19th year, that proved the correctness of the astronomical calculation and of politics of the time. Therefore Sakutan Toji was cerebrated in ancient Japan.

It is said that if you eat bean porridge or pumpkin and take “yuzu-yu (a Chinese lemmon bath)” on the day of Toji, you will stay in good health without catching cold for the rest of the winter. This is because Toji is a pun for “toji (hot spring cure).” Also “yuzu (Chinese lemmon)” is a pun for “Yuzu ga kiku,” which means “flexible.” So, people took “yuzu-yu” in hope of becoming able to cope with everything flexibly.
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能面 延命冠者 Noumen Enmeikaja Noh Mask Enmei Kaja

Jp En

Enmei Kaja is a kind of the Okina (a holy old man) masks. It expresses a rich laughter with like other Okina masks but has no separate jaw part. It looks more like a male mask with young impression created by thinly drawn beard and big dimples.

As “Enmei” means “to prolong life” and “Kaja” means “an adult male,” Enmei Kaja is a man with a virtue of prolonging life. This mask is used for tsure (the companion of shite) in “Junitsuki Orai” scene of the play “Okina,” while the Chichi-no-jo mask is used for shite (the main role). The role with this mask is considered as a son of Chichi-no-jo. Enmei Kaja is sometimes used for shite in the play “Sagi.”

Like other Okina masks, it has the remnant of the Heian and Kamakura periods, when Noh had not yet been established in the present form. Enmei Kaja is a mask with people’s prayer for long life and family ever-lasting prosperity.
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富士山 Fujisan Mt Fuji

Jp En

Mr Fuji extends across parts of both Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. At 3776m, Mt Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan as everyone knows.

The origin of the mountain dates back to hundreds of thousand of years ago. Even today, it is still an active volcano. Its last eruption was on 16th December, 1707, in the Edo period, and there remains a document saying that volcanic ash traveled as far as Tokyo.

Ancient literature describes Mt. Fuji as Mt. 'No Death' or 'No Two' (both of these words can be pronounced as 'fuji' in Japanese). The name 'No Death' derives from the Taketori Tale, in which an elixir of life was burnt on the mountain. 'No Two' comes from the fact that 'no other mountains compete with Mt. Fuji'. Since the Kamakura period, the characters for Mt. Fuji are written as 'samurai gets rich', which samurais preferred.

The number of people climbing Mt. Fuji is said to be the largest of any mountain in the world. The facts about this mountain could go on forever. You will feel its greatness afresh.
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羽子板 羽 Hagoita Hane Hagoita and Hane (Paddle and Shuttle)

Jp En

The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period. At first, it was only used as a toy, or as equipment to play hanetsuki (a badminton-like game), but it gradually became an article to drive away evil spirits, and later became a charm given to women on oshogatsu (new year's day).

During the Edo period, hagoita decorated with pictures of Kabuki actors were very popular. Today, the hagoita has been designated as a traditional Tokyo handicraft.

Since the Edo period, a famous fair called Hagoitaichi takes place at Asakusa Temple over three days from December 17th. Many visitors come each year. The decorated hagoita sold at this event are famous for being made in Kasukabe, or Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama Prefecture.

Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media.
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