Winter In Japan - By Yaz Ketcherside
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Winter In Japan

By Yaz Ketcherside for The J-Pop Exchange

Winter is a major time for Japan with holiday celebrations, snow festivals, winter solstice and New Year celebrations. From flavorful steamy street food to winter decorations throughout the country, Japan knows how to celebrate winter right.

A festival that heats things up over in Japan is called Oniyo Fire Festival. This 1,600-year-old festival is held on January 1st at the Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine in Fukuoka. The neighboring towns come together and light a ‘devil fire’ which is meant to drive away evil spirits and guards the Shrine for 7 days. On the night of January 7th, the fire is transferred to 6 torches which are then carried around the Shrine by men wearing loincloths. As the men walk around, it is believed that if an ember falls on to you, you are blessed with good luck.

The Dondo Yaki is a mid-January celebration that is held all around Japan at the local Shrines. In this specific festival, locals bring unwanted lucky items that they have had from the previous year and burn them, as throwing it away might ward bad luck. These items include Daruma Dolls, lucky cat dolls, omamori, etc. Along with all the lucky items being burned, Japanese street food like Dango or Mochi is roasted over the fire which was used to destroy the lucky items. This is believed to promote good health for the new year.

The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri is Hokkaido's Snow Festival. Sculptors from around the country come together to create magnificent sculptures out of snow and ice, thus creating a winter wonderland! Heading out to the festival during the day is fantastic, but the true magic comes alive when the sun goes down and the lights inside the sculptures illuminate. The festival itself attracts over 2 million people a year.

And last but not least the Japanese New Year. This is probably the most important and famous Japanese holiday. The country shuts down from December 30th to January 3rd to celebrate the New Year and a variety of parades. For the Japanese, the New Year symbolizes the shedding of the past. Many make way to their local shrines and make offerings. Some buy ‘omamori’ which are Japanese amulets which symbolize different forms of luck such as finding the love of your life, finance, and warding off evil spirits. They carry this around with them in the new year.

And to finish the New Year celebration off right, set your alarm to be sure to catch the first sunrise of the New Year. It is said that by watching the first sunrise of the new year, one can make a wish which will bring good luck in the year.



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