Shimekazari, a New Year’s decoration, in some parts of the Chugoku region often uses red chilies along with shide, a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, and a bitter orange called daidai.
Chili has been used as a charm against evil sprits in many regions of the world. In Japan, it is hung over the front door of the house to prevent malicious spirits from entering.
Plants with thorns or a strong smell are also believed to work against evil spirits. In Setsubun, a spring ritual to drive devils away, some regions have the custom of inserting branches of the holly tree and a sardine head in the front door of the house. Shide are also hung to absorb misfortune and danger from the outside.
The “Shime” of shimekazari means “to occupy” and the shimenawa rope is used to mark the boundary of a sacred area where a God resides and to prevent impurities such as epidemics from entering it. It is also used as a seal to prevent good fortune from leaving the same area
The concept of Shimekazari is said to derive from this creation of a sacred space using the shimenawa.
The Ere-kotcha Miyazaki festival started in 2002 and is a revival of the Miyazaki Furusato festival that was first held in 1984 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Miyazaki City. It is a new type of festival, blending traditional Bon dancing with modern-style dancing.
The festival is held on the last two days of July. There are two main events. One is the 'citizen's dance', a large-scale dance with 10,000 people dancing to local folk music. The other event is the dance contest, Ere-kochya Miyazaki, held in downtown Miyazaki. This contest involves various groups and teams of dancers, and performers from all over Kyushu, who express the hot summer through their bodies.
'Ere-kotcha' means 'a great matter' in the dialect of Miyazaki. And indeed, the festival is filled with great excitement.
Other attractions of this festival include the 'Taiko-mai', a performance by taiko drum groups from around the prefecture, and the 'Kitchen Garden', where the rich ingredients of Miyazaki can be met. These various events and performances wonderfully represent the spirit of the festival.
The firework that colors the night of a summer is made using gunpowder and metal powder. The various metal powders are mixed in to produce color.
Evidence of the use of firecrackers have been found in China that date back to about the 3rd century BC. During the 6th century, firecrackers evolved with the use of gunpowder. In the beginning, they were like rocket fireworks and were not used as official weaponry.
Fireworks were first manufactured in Japan in the 16th century after the introduction of guns. According to the 'Kyu-chu Hisaku', it is recorded that Tokugawa Ieyasu viewed fireworks in 1613 within the premises of Edo castle. This is also the oldest record of the Japanese word for firework: 'hanabi'.
Many kite-flying activities take place during the Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival. The Yokaichi giant kite is designated as an intangible folk cultural asset.
Yokaichi giant kite-flying started 300 years ago in the mid-Edo period. Kites were flown to celebrate the birth of a boy. For this reason, kite-flying is similar to the display of koinobori on Boy's Day, an important event in Japan. Nowadays, over 100 kites are flown, and they are even flown to celebrate a young person's coming of age.
Yokaichi giant kites are designed with 'hanjimon otako', which features pictures of fishes and birds in the upper section with words written in red to illustrate meanings. This kite, in a sense, is rare because it has cut-out sections that help to diminish resistance from wind. Flying these giant kites involves balancing the strength of the strings with the size of the kite.
The Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival is held annually on the 4th Sunday of May in Aichi-gawa.
Celebration Envelopes (shuugi bukuro) are specially designed paper packets for holding gift-money presented at someone's celebration. There are fine rules depending on the event celebrated: marriage, childbirth, or birthday.
In the old Shinto religion, dedications to gods were wrapped in paper, and this is said to be the origin of the Celebration Envelope.
Usually, a paper sash called 'noshigami' is attached to the outside of the folded paper pocket, which is then tied with strings called 'mizuhiki'. On the front, the title of the celebration and the words 'motegaki' are written by brush.
Today, Celebration Envelopes complete with the noshigami, mizuhiki and omotegaki are available, even at convenience stores. But the custom of Celebration Envelopes demonstrates a certain Japanese finesse and we should preserve this tradition.
Twun-Dar-Bun are appetizer vessels, exclusive to Okinawa, and are magnificent examples of Ryukyu lacquerware.
Twun-dar-bun was originally a kind of bowl introduced from China and means in Chinese: 'bowl with meals to welcome the guest'. In Ryukyu, this bowl form became decorated using the techniques of Ryukyu lacquerware that were typically Okinawan.
Apart from being such gorgeous vessels, the food usually presented in these containers was as sumptuous and expensive as the container itself. Such containers were often used on important occasions such as weddings and 60th-birthday celebrations. They were used on New Year holidays, too.
It seems that the term Twun-Dar-Bun originally referred to the container itself. But now refers to the container as well as the meal inside.
Today, the classic octagonal Twun-Dar-Bun bowl is representative of Ryukyu cuisine, and recalls the gracious past of the Ryukyu Kingdom.