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  • Lucky Seven and the Seven Lucky Gods

    There are seven wonders of the world, seven days of the week, early astronomers recgognised seven planets, we avoid the seven deadly sins, and we pray for sevens at slot machines. The world has always had a fascination with the number seven and Japan is no exception. In fact, the number ‘nana’, ‘shichi’ , ‘seven’ or whatever you want to call it, is quite a big deal in Japan. With the influence of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism tying in with the native Shintoism over the years, Japan's reverence for the number is entrenched. Buddhism introduces the idea of seven reincarnations, a birth is officially celebrated seven days after the event and death is mourned for seven days (and then re-mourned after seven weeks). We could go on. But nowhere is this number and its lucky connotations more ob ...

  • Cradle to the grave – birth, marriage and death in Japan

    Every culture has rituals and ceremonies that mark the key stages of life, usually birth, marriage, and death. In many cases, these rituals have a religious significance. The baby of Catholic parents, for example, will probably be baptised in church. At a Jewish wedding the groom will break glass, and a Muslim is likely to be buried according to Islamic customs. What’s surprising for many Westerners is how most Japanese freely mix and match their religious ceremonies... The Japanese religious worldview is very open and inclusive. For a Japanese it is completely normal to bring a newborn baby to a Shinto shrine for a blessing, have a Christian-style wedding and a Buddhist funeral. The reason is that in Japan, religions are often seen as being defined by their rituals and practices, n ...

  • The Circle of Life – Rituals, Celebrations and Festivals in Japan

    Living in Japan, I’ve been flabbergasted a number of times when asked, in all seriousness, if my home country of England has the same cycle of four seasons as Japan - something they hold as unique and prized. While politely pointing out that Japan is not alone in recognising the passage of four distinct seasons, you have to admit the seasonal changes here have a more dramatic flair. As I write from my home in Kyoto, the mercury has hit 39°C making it hard to recall the thick blanket of snow that comes with winter. The spring and autumn seasons, with their famous cherry blossoms and autumn leaves respectively, bring their own concrete distinctions. The ensuing appreciation, sometimes even verging on fetishization, of the seasons in Japan has had a wide-ranging effect on literature, art, ...

  • There’s a festival for that: Japan and it’s matsuri

    A trip to Japan at any time is a cultural adventure to say the least with some ‘very Japanese’ experiences you should try whilst visiting the country. Staying in a traditional ryokan guest house, heading to a local Izakaya, riding the Shinkansen, tucking into a bowl of good ramen or eating some fine sushi top most people's lists. However, we’d argue that if there were one thing you could do to get a taste of Japan's culture, society, religion, food and sense of fun, it's attending a matsuri, or festival. Some matsuri are huge and attract visitors from all over Japan. Aomori’s Nebuta festival, with its illuminated floats and unique dancing, attracts millions over one August week. The little town of Takayama clocks up hundreds of thousands watching the huge floats during its spring an ...

  • The Rituals of Childhood

    You are struck by ritual and tradition everywhere in Japan - from the moment you step off the plane to the ground crew bowing your arrival. What may seem quite different, or even quaint at the time, is actually just a continuation of values and traditions instilled upon the Japanese from the very beginning of their lives.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by さかえ写真スタジオ (@sakae_photo_studio) on Jun 15, 2020 at 8:21pm PDT It’s important to start life right with regards the gods, so once you’re 30 days old you’ll want to get a good introduction - called omiyamairi. Here the newborn is dressed up in a formal dress (sometimes made by the mother’s family) and is brought to the family ...


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