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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Japan's Little New Year

Because I love Japan, I find my of its idiosyncrasies kind of charming.

One of them is the fact that while they do indeed work far to many hours (I don't know how hard they are working, because that is subjective), they do like to let their hair down have a good time when time permits.

Proof of that for me was the fact that everyone had a great sense of humor (enjoyed laughing) and they all got wasted and had fun at the various office enkai (parties) and matsuri (local and national festivals).

As mentioned previously, Japan celebrates its official New Year on January 1 (based on the Gregorian Calendar that non-Asian countries use)... something it has been doing since they switched systems in 1873 thanks to European and American influence.

Before that, Japan (as most of Asia seems to now) celebrated the New Year based on the Lunar Calendar, which affects the actual date from being between January 21 through February 20.

This year's (2017) Lunar New Year begins on January 28.

But... any excuse for a party, Japan also celebrates in between January 1 and January 28, with a festival known as Little New Year (小正月, koshōgatsu).

This is the celebration of the first full moon of the year... the 15th day of the first lunar month (approximately mid-February)... wait... so shouldn't it be celebrated on February 15?

Yes... it should be... and some parts of Japan stick to their guns and celebrate it then... because the new year doesn't begin in the old Lunar Calendar until January 21-February 20... that's why the first full moon is later.

However... since officially Japan is part of the Gregorian Calendar system, and New Year begins on January 1... Koshōgatsu (Little New Year) begins in January... January 15... keeping it as a set date to celebrate the first Gregorian Calendar full moon.

I know - holy crap it's complex... no wonder the Japanese like to drink.

I saw a full moon in Toronto on January 12, 2017... so the 15th date to celebrate
Koshōgatsu is (also) subjective... or... it is what it is.

The main thing about Koshōgatsu, is its religious significance... as it was required by farmers and... well everyone who depended on food in Japan (everyone) to ensure a bountiful harvest... with lots of rites and prayers being done at the local temple and shrines.

Traditionally, New Year's decorations (regardless of the calendar) were taken down at this time (though perhaps not if the celebrated Japanese Lunar Calendar New Year fell after February 15...)
I love azuki beans... and would definitely have more in my bowl of azukigayu.
The people would also have a traditional breakfast of rice gruel and azuki beans (>小豆粥, azukigayu) at a Buddhist temple.. I would imagine then, as now, a fee was established (or a donation).

Photo by me (Andrew Joseph) shows a farmer in Ohtawara-shi (1993), Tochigi-ken probably wondering why he didn't go and pray during that year's Little New Year celebration at the local temple.
Somewhere outstanding in his field,
Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. The first picture of this blog post is perfectly taken. All these Japanese Examples will help us learn the language easily!