Japan Tradition: Seijin Shiki

Seijin Shiki

Seijin Shiki also known as Seijin no Hi (成人の日) is the Coming of Age day. This is a Japanese holiday held every year on the second Monday of January. The goal of this day is to congratulate and encourage all those who have become 20 years old, the age of maturity (二十歳 hatachi), in the past year.
In this day, many young Japanese celebrate with a Coming of Age ceremony, the Seijin-Shiki (成人式). The celebrations for this day are often held in local and prefectural offices. However, many people have after parties with family and friends right after. Also, it’s common to see many of these young peole walk in the street wearing traditional clothes.

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Shinjin Shiki, the Coming of Age ceremony, dates back to 714 in Japan. In this year, a young prince donned new robes and hairstyles to mark the passage into adulthood. However, the holiday was first established in 1948 and it was set to be celebrated every January 15th. Later in 2000, the date for Seijin Shiki changed and set to be celebrate in the second Monday of January.
Only those who celebrated their 20th birthday before the last Coming of age day or on the present one can join the celebrations.

Seijin Shiki celebrations

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Sijin Shiki mark the age of maturity, which includes the expanded rights but also the increase of expected responsibilities. Usually, government officials give speeches and friends and family hand out small presents to the newly adults.
Women usually celebrate this day wearing furisode and zōri sandals that they can buy, borrow from a relative or rent for the occasion. Also men wear a traditional dress, like a dark kimono with hakama, but nowadays it’s not uncommon to see men wear a suit and tie.
After the formal ceremony, they often go out in groups to parties or drinking with friends.

Photo credit: Google images

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Japan Travel: Asakusa & Sensoji Temple

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Asakusa is one of the most famous district of Tokyo. Situated in the north-east side of the city and delimited by the Sumida river. Asakusa is a very interesting place mostly thanks to the Sensōji temple dedicated to Kannon Sama, Buddhist goddess of mercy.
Passing the Kaminarimon, the door of “thunder” with its big red paper lantern called Chōchin, there’s the famous Nakamise Dori. This is a peculiar street is full of stands where you can find many items and traditional clothes together with toys for children. For all the food lovers, here you can taste the traditional meals like Senbei (rice crackers in soy sauce), the amazing Yakisoba (buckwheat noodles) and Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).

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If you are looking for a place where to rest, buy souvenirs and feel completely submerged in Japanese history and tradition, come to Asakusa. Here you can find a little bit of everything. The ambience is even more peculiar thanks to the porters in traditional clothes and the rickshaws.

Asakusa is also a wonderful place for kids. Around here you can find the oldest playground in Japan, Hanayashiki.

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Opened since 1853 and completely abandoned afterwards after the Second World War. Due to this, in 1949, following a couple of years of restoration and update for safety measures, the playground re-opened. Something very cute to see is the mascotte of the playground, the Panda Car and the kids can have fun driving it.

Sensō-ji Temple

The Sensō-ji is a temple dedicated to the boshisattva Kannon (Avalokitesvara). Legend says that the golden statue of Kannon found in the Sumida river by two fishermen, Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari in 628. The statue was then preserved from the head of the village Hajino Nakamoto in his house in Asakusa.

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The house became a temple but the actual shrine was built in 645. Restored after the destruction of World War II, the temple is now a symbol of rebirth and peace for all Japanese. Furthermore, a tree was born inside the trunk of a previous one destroyed by the bombing and became another symbol of rebirth.

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The Sanja Matsuri, the most important Japanese festival, takes place at Sensō-ji in spring. It lasts 3/4 days and it attracts a lot of people between tourists and in loco. This festival has been transformed quite a few times. Originally it started as “funamatsuri”, a ceremony taking place on a ship. However, after changing to the use of “dashi”, ceremonial carts, it took its modern form with three “mikoshi”, altars, shown in a procession.

In the temple you can find omikuji dispensers, tickets containing a divine prophecy. Also it's famous for its zen garden in typical Japanese style.

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Asakusa in pills:

Where: North-east Tokyo
Peculiarities: Sensō-ji Temple, Kaminarimon, Hanayashiki playground, Nakamise Dori
Food: Senbei, Yakisoba, Yakitori and other specialties of the Japanese cuisine

Photo Credits: Google Images & Japan Italy Bridge

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Japanese Traditions: Ōmisoka - New year's traditions

Japanese Traditions: Ōmisoka - New year

Shogatsu (or Oshogatsu) is the new year for the land of the Rising Sun.

In the Meiji period, this date was coinciding with the Chinese lunar calendar, but during the restoration of the same period, Japan changed to the Gregorian calendar too, fixing January 1st as the festive day we all know.

For the westerners it’s almost impossible to think to gather 365 days in just one moment. However, opening your eyes in front of the sight of the Hatsuhinode (the dawn of the first sun of the year) it is considered good luck and as the representation of the year that’s about to begin. However, every year, celebrations start on December 28th when all the preparations for new year begin. During the days of the Shougatsu Sanganichi, only the primary services are available, while Japanese people dedicate themselves to the Susuharai, cleaning of the whole house to get rid of all the negative traces of the past year. Kadomatsu (pine braches) and Shimenawa (straw rope with stripes of colored paper) are hanged on the doorsteps to keep the bad spirits away.
Japanese postal office are actively sending out and delivering cards for the best wishes that need to reach friends and families before new year’s day, the nengajou (年賀状).

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Everything is ready to spend the time with the family and on December 31st, that's when the Ōmisoka begins (literally New year’s eve, the last day of the year).
Around 10:30pm the Joya no Kane, the tolls from the Tsurigane (bell of the temple), begins. They are very slow, because the first toll has to stop ringing before a second one is taken. They go on until midnight for a total of 108 tolls. They are said to be purifying for all those who listen so that it’s possible to face a new chapter of our lives.

Traditional foods

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In this night it’s tradition to eat toshikoshi soba (年越しそば), noodles made with buckwheat, eggs and hot broth. The length of the noodles are auspice of a long life, their digestibility indicates the interior cleanliness and the ease in cutting them are a symbol of the removal of all bad things of the past.

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The day after, the first visit to the temple takes place, the HATSUMOUDE (初詣). To pray for health for every family member and their happiness is the right spirit to face a new beginning. Furthermore, Japanese kids usually receive a small engraved envelope, bukuro (袋), containing some money (otoshidama, お年玉).

Family and festivities are connected together also thanks to the food. On the tables you can find theosechi-ryouri (お節料理), specialties coming from the tradition like the kombu (昆布) weed. The kamaboko (蒲鉾, fish cake), kurikinton (栗きんとん, mash potatoes with chestunts), kinpiragobo (金平牛蒡, burdock boiled roots). The most loved and well known Kuro-mame (黒豆, sweet black soy beans) and of course sushi and sashimi. Due to all these specialties, on the 7th day of January there’s the jinjitsu (人日), the day for “stomach rest”, when you only eat the the nanakusa-gayu (七草粥, the soup of the seven herbs made with rice).

If you ever had the chance to be in Japan during the Ōmisoka, tell us in the comments or on our facebook page! We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Image source: Google