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Japanese Events in January

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"Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu (Happy New Year!)" In Japan the New Year begins with this greeting (Unlike English it can't be used before the New Year). The Japanese word for January is "ichi-gatsu (一月)" which literally means "the first month." In the old days it was called "mutsuki (睦月)." Click here to learn the old names of the months.

Here are some events held in January.

  • 1st: Ganjitsu 元日 --- New Year's Day

  • 2nd: Kakizome 書初め --- First calligraphy of the New Year

  • 7th: Nanakusa 七草 --- The seven herbs of spring

  • 11th: Kagami-biraki 鏡開き --- The cutting of the New Year's rice cake

  • Second Monday (14th in 2013): Seijin no hi 成人の日 --- Coming-of-Age-Day (National Holiday)

    Click here to learn how the Japanese spend New Year's Holidays (Oshougatsu)."

    "Kakizome (書初め)" is the first calligraphy of the New Year. The subjects tend to be auspicious words or phrases. "Kakizome competitions (書初め大会)" are annual events at elementary and junior high schools.

    "Nanakusa (七草)" literally means "seven herbs." It is customary to eat nanakusa-gayu (seven herb rice porridge) on January 7th. It is said that these herbs will prevent all kind of illnesses. Also, people tend to eat and drink too much on New Year's Day, therefore it is a ideal light and healthy meal with a lot of vitamins. Click here to learn more about "nanakusa ."

    "Kagami-mochi (鏡餅)" is a set of two round, flat rice cakes (one large, one small) stacked on a stand. It is displayed in the alcove and offered to the Shinto and Buddhist deities at the New Year. "Kagami-mochi" is taken down on "Kagami-biraki (鏡開き)" Day and eaten. Since it is taboo to cut it with a knife, it is cracked by hand or with a hammer.

    "Seijin no hi (成人の日)" is a national holiday which honors young people who have turned, or who will turn, the age of 20 during the current year. At the age of 20, youths are officially recognized as adults and gain the right to vote as well as to drink and smoke. Most women wear traditional kimono to the ceremonies.

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