October and November usually sees the temperatures cool down and the onset of winter starts. Autumn (when it comes!) is a wonderful time in Japan as the Japanese maple tree sheds its colourful leaves.
The Japanese even have a word for this annual phenomenon – Momijigari (紅葉狩). Vibrant reds, yellows and browns can be seen and many places have their own illumination festivals where the trees are lit up for spectators at night – it is a truly wonderful experience and a must if you travel to Japan during this time of the year.
Places worth visiting to see Momijigari include the traditional capital of Japan – Kyoto, or Nikko which is a train ride away from Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture. Also anywhere in the mountains of Gifu and Nagano in central Japan are well worth a visit.
Check out how beautiful Kiyomizudera (清水寺, literally “Pure Water Temple”) looks in Kyoto…
Here’s this month’s write-up of your box contents, including a few extra special Halloween themed goodies.
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Malc & Rich
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Obon (お盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of one’s ancestors that has been celebrated for at least 500 years. Although a traditionally religious time of the year, it has developed into a national holiday during which Japanese revisit their hometown’s to get together with family for a few days.
A dance, known as Bon-Odori has also developed over the years and it is a common sight at festivals across the country during this time of the year. Participants of the dance traditionally wear yukata, or light cotton kimonos that are often beautifully adorned and the look finished off with Geta (下駄) – Japanese sandals made from wood.
Many Obon celebrations include festivals with games, and summer festival food like chilled cucumber and watermelon. The festival ends with Toro Nagashi (灯籠流し), or the floating of lanterns. Paper lanterns are illuminated and then floated down rivers symbolically signalling the ancestral spirits’ return to the world of the dead.
Rather than being used to celebrate New Year like in the west, fireworks (花火, Hanabi) have a long history in Japan as being an important part of the Japanese summer.
Originally used to ward off evil spirits, firework shows are held all across the country mainly during the school summer holidays in late July and August. The biggest events draw huge crowds, and getting a good viewing spot often involves lots of waiting and planning in advance.
A secondary attraction of Japanese fireworks is the relaxed festival atmosphere that comes with them, including people dressed in yukata, huge floats and streets lined with food and game stalls.
Pictured above is the Nebuta summer festival in Aoomori prefecture. Festival fireworks typically start sometime after sunset and last one to two hours. Many of the longer shows are broken up into multiple shorter segments, interrupted by the announcement of titles and sponsors. They often end with a grand finale consisting of hundreds of shells launched simultaneously.
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Malc & Rich