Sunday, August 30, 2009

総選挙(so senkyo): General Election

Today became the historical day of the Japanese political history. There was the 45th general election of the House of Representatives.
The fixed number is 480. 300 of them are chosen from the small election districts and 180 are chosen from the 11 election blocks. The term is 4 years. Those who are over 20 years old have the right to vote. Those who are over 25 years old have the right to run. About 70 % of voters went to the polling places between 7 AM and 8 PM. About 14,000,000 people (13.40% of voters) voted in advance.
When there is a general election, there is also the National review of the Supreme Court justices.
The Liberal-Democratic Party used to have the power, but with this election the change of the power happened and the Democratic Party became the ruling party by getting the comfortable majority.

In Japan election is held on Sunday. Those who cannot come on Sunday, they can vote earlier than the election day.
However as far as I know in the US it is held on Tuesday. I think this is a quite different attitude.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

浅草サンバカーニバル: 29th Asakusa Samba Carnival

There are some famous events in Asakusa (浅草). Today one of them was held. It is Asakusa Samba Carnival (浅草サンバカーニバル). It is held on the last Saturday of August every year. This was the 29th carnival which started in 1981. It was done from 13:30 to 18:00 and 4,700 people of 19 teams attended. They competed dancing for 800 meters on the main street. It was 30 degrees centigrade there. About 500,000 spectators enjoyed the show.
Asakusa is known as the traditional town with the famous temple. Therefore for the first few years, I felt somehow mismatching feeling. But it became one of the representative summer festivals of Japan.

Official website is as follows though it is written in Japanese:

Friday, August 28, 2009

民放テレビスタートの日(minpo terebi staato no hi): Anniversary of the first commercial broadcasting

1953 is the first year of the broadcasting in Japan. In February NHK (日本放送協会:Nippon Hoso Kyokai, Japan Broadcasting Corporation) started broadcasting. NHK is Japan's national public broadcasting organization.
As a commercial broadcasting, NTV (日本テレビ放送網:Nippon Television Network Corporation) started its business at 11:20 am on Aug. 28, 1953.
At the same time the first commercial film was on air. Therefore today is also called terebi CM no hi(テレビCMの日), Anniversary of TV CM, which was established in 2005.
The first TV commercial film was about the watch by Hattori tokei ten(服部時計店). They were going to tell the signal of 12:00 noon, but since it was the very first one, the film was input inside out and last for only 3 seconds and the sound was also very vague.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

寅さんの日(Tora san no hi): Day of Tora-san

Do you know any Japanese movies? Maybe yes because this year Okuribito (おくりびと Departure) got the Oscar. There are some famous Japanese directors, actors, and actresses known to the world.
Do you know the Japanese movies titled Otoko wa tsurai yo(男はつらいよ It's tough being a man.)? The main character's name is Kuruma Torajiro(車寅次郎) starring Atsumi Kiyoshi(渥美清), but he is called Tora-san(寅さん) or Futen no Tora(フーテンの寅). 48 series were made from 1969 to 1995, it was considered by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the longest movie series in the world. 46 out of 48 films were directed by Yamada Yoji(山田洋次) who is a very famous director.
The movies had basically the same plot. The traveling salesman Tora-san meets Madonna, but always unlucky in love. Two films were made in a year, one for summer, the other for winter.
Today is the anniversary for the first series of Otoko wa tsurai yo was released in 1969.
The actor Atsumi Kiyoshi passed away on Aug.4, 1996 at the age of 68. He received the People's Honour Award after his death.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

レインボーブリッジの日: Day of the Rainbow Bridge

On Aug. 26, 1993, the Rainbow Bridge(レインボーブリッジ) was opened. It is a suspension bridge crossing northern Tokyo Bay between the Shibaura Wharf and the Odaiba waterfront development in Tokyo. The total length is 798 meters, the height of the main tower is 126 meters, and the height above the sea level is 50 meters. It is the biggest suspension bridge in East Japan. There are two decks: upper deck is Shuto Expressway No. 11 Odaiba Route, lower deck is Route 357 and the Yurikamome (ゆりかもめ) automated train. The view from and around there is very beautiful.

On March 1 this year there was a special event called Tokyo Rainbow Walk. The chosen 5,000 out of 20,000 applicants walked on the bridge for the first time as a part of the Tokyo Olympic inviting activities.

The longest suspension bridge in the world is the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge(明石海峡大橋:akashi kaikyo ohashi) which was opened on April 5, 1998. The bridge links the city of Kobe and Awaji Island by crossing the Akashi Strait. Its total length is 3,911 meters (12,831 ft).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ラーメン記念日(ramen kinenbi): Anniversary of Ramen

What Japanese foods do you know? Maybe sushi (寿司), sashimi (刺身:raw fish), tempura (天ぷら), teriyaki (照り焼き), sukiyaki (すき焼き), teppan yaki(鉄板焼), miso shiru(味噌汁:miso soup), o cha(お茶:green tea)?
Besides these there are very popular dishes among Japanese people such as korokke (コロッケ: croquette), ramen (ラーメン: Chinese noodle), and kare raisu(カレーライス:curry with rice). Their origins are not in Japan but other countries.
On Aug. 25, 1958, the first instant ramen in the world was invented and sold by Ando Momofuku(安藤百福), the founder of Nisshin shokuhin(日清食品). The name was Nisshin Chicken Ramen(日清チキンラーメン). It was sold at yen35 of 85g. At that time the average first salary of college graduates was yen13,467. The base fare of train was yen10 and the entrance fee of public bath was yen16.
Pour hot water on ramen and wait for 3 minutes. This simple procedure caught people's eye. It became so popular that it is still sold after more than half century. There are many instant ramen companies now in Japan.
It is estimated that the total comsumption of ramen in the world is 93,600,000,000 foods per year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

史上最多優勝(shijo saita yusho): Most victory in the history

There was the final match of the 91st High School Baseball game at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium (阪神甲子園球場) in Nishinomiya today. High school baseball is the most popular sports in summer. Representatives of 49 prefectures (2 teams from Hokkaido and Tokyo and 1 team from each prefecture) have had a tournament from Aug. 8 for 15 days.
The final was between Chukyodaichukyo ko (中京大中京高) from Aichi(愛知) versus Nihon Bunri ko(日本文理高) from Niigata(新潟). The match became a historical one. It is often said that the baseball game starts from the two outs of 9th inning. Up to 8th inning Nihon Bunri was 6 points behind from Chukyodaichukyo, but in the 9th inning they got 5 points. There was a chance for them to win, but after all Chukyodaichukyo won by 10 vs 9. They became the top of 4,041 high schools.
It was their 7th victory and this is the most winning record in its history. It has been 43 years since they became a champion last time in 1966. Congratulations!!
There were 47,000 spectators today, and the total spectators of the games for 15 days reached 812,000.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Today is shosho (処暑), one of nijyushisekki (二十四節季), 24 solar terms. The last one was risshu (立秋) on Aug. 7 and the next one is hakuro (白露) on Sep. 7. Shosho is the time around when the hottest season was over and the heat is retreating. Autumn is coming.

Today is the last day of the 12th IAAF World Championship in Athletics in Berlin. There was women's marathon and Ozaki Yoshimi (尾崎好美) got the silver medal at the time of 2 hours 25 minutes 25 seconds. Congratulations!

In this meeting the most attractive athlete must be Usain Bolt of Jamaica who made world records of 100 metres at 9.58 s and 200 metres at 19.19 s. Today he got the third gold medal for 4 x 100 metres relay. Congratulations!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

チンチン電車の日(chinchin densha no hi): Day of Street Car

They say today is day of street car in Japan. In 1903 the first street car ran in Tokyo (東京) between Shimbashi (新橋) and Shinagawa (品川) on business.
The first street car in Japan appeared on May 4, 1890 at the venue of the exhibition at the Ueno (上野) Park. And the first street car on the general road ran on Feb. 1, 1895 in Kyoto (京都).
Street car is called chin chin densha(チンチン電車) in Japanese. Chin chinis imitative word of the bell to tell to stop or move.
Street cars exist in 400 cities in 50 countries in the world. In Japan there are 20 places that have street cars.

When I lived in Seville, Spain in 1992, there was no street car, but when I visited there again last summer, there were street cars. I was so surprised at seeing them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

献血記念日(kenketsu kinenbi): Anniversary of Blood Donation

In 1964 the cabinet decided to establish the system of securing blood for transfusion not by buying blood but by donating blood. Sold blood was called "Yellow blood" because they had fewer corpuscles and more blood plasma. Those blood were not effective and tend to cause side effects such as hepatitis after transfusion. Therefore this was a big social problem.
In 1974 Blood Banks stopped keeping blood, and the system to secure all blood by donation was established.

Ratio of blood type A, O, B, AB in Japanese is 4:3:2:1. The relationship between blood type and personality is a very popular topic among Japanese people, and there are many books about it.
Ratio of blood type in the USA is O 45%, A 40%, B 11%, AB 4%. Most of American people do not know their blood type.

Most of Japanese people usually know their own blood type in case of emergency. On the contrary many of my foreign friends do not care their blood type. Do you know your blood type?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

交通信号の日(kotsu shingo no hi): Anniversary of Traffic Signal

On Aug. 20, 1931 the first Japanese traffic signals of three lights were placed in 34 intersections in Tokyo. The colors are red (aka:赤), yellow (ki:黄 ), and green (midori:緑), but we call the green color blue (ao:青).
The first traffic light of gas in the world was installed in London on Dec. 10, in 1868. The first electric traffic light was set in New York in 1918.

In Japan red means you must not go, yellow means to stop, and green means you may go. In the USA, depends on the places you can turn right even if it is red. So please be careful when you drive in Japan, because you have to stop when it is red.

When I traveled in Washington DC and other places, I saw many traffic lights with left time counting. I had butterflies in my stomach.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

俳句の日(haiku no hi): Day of Haiku

Aug. 19 is written as 8.19 which is read as ha (8) i (1) ku (9). Therefore Aug. 19 is Day of Haiku (俳句). Do you know Haiku? Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 sounds of 5-7-5 with a seasonal word in it. This is the world shortest poem. Poet of haiku is called haijin (俳人).
Three famous haijin of the Edo period are Matsuo Basho(松尾芭蕉:1644-1694), Yosano Buson(与謝蕪村:1716-1783), and Kobayashi Issa(小林一茶:1763-1827). In Meiji era Masaoka Shiki(正岡子規:1867-1902) established the haiku as modern literature.
The world-best known haiku must be the one of Basho's. That is: Furuike ya (古池や:Old pond), kawazu tobikomu(蛙飛び込む: a frog leaps in), mizu no oto(水の音: water's sound).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ビーフンの日(bifun no hi): Day of Rice Noodle

Do you like noodles? There are many kinds of noodles in Japan such as ramen (ラーメン), udon (うどん), soba (そば), somen (そうめん), hiyamugi (冷麦), spaghetti (スパゲッティ), bifun (ビーフン、米粉) and so on.
They say today is day of bifun, rice noodles because the kanji character rice (米) is composed of three numbers, eight (八), ten (十), and eight (八). Today is Aug. 18, that is 8.18. Therefore Bifun Kyokai (ビーフン協会), Rice Noodle Association decided Aug. 18 as the day of rice noodle.
Without knowing this, I happened to eat the rice noodle tonight.

Monday, August 17, 2009

プロ野球ナイター記念日(puro yakyu naita kinenbi): Anniversary of the night game of professional baseball game

What sports do you like? In Japan baseball (yakyu: 野球 ) is the most popular sports I think. It is a high school baseball game season now.
On Aug. 17, 1948 the first night game of professional baseball teams (Giants vs. Dragons) were played. Therefore it is the anniversary for that. In Japan the baseball night game is called naita(ナイター), it is Japanese-English of night+er. The word "Nighter" was used for the first time at that time.
Speaking of baseball, Matsui Kazuo(松井稼頭央) of Houston Astros made a record of 2000 hits recently. Congratulations! It's been 16 years since he became professional. He is the third Japanese player who made the record. The first was Ichiro (イチロー) of Seattle Mariners who has 3256 hits, the second was Matsui Hideki(松井秀喜) of New York Yankees who has 2327 hits.
When I was young there were some foreigners playing in Japan, but no Japanese in the US major leagues. But these days many Japanese baseball players have been very active in the USA. We are so proud of them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

五山送り火(gozan no okuribi)

There was one of four big events in Kyoto tonight. It is called gozan no okuribi (五山送り火), literally five mountains sending off fire. This has some hundreds years of history.
During obon the spirits of ancestors came back home, and on the last day of obon we send them off with fire.
In Kyoto five giant bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding the city from 8 pm. Three of them form giant Chinese characters, and two of them are shapes as follows:
Daimonji(大文字), the Chinese character dai (大) meaning "large" or "great" on Daimonji-yamaat 8:00 pm. The longest size is 160 m. There are 75 fire spots.
Myo/Ho(妙・法), meaning "excellent law" on Nishi-yama/Higashi-yamaat 8:10 pm.
Funagata(船形), the shape of boat on Funa-yamaat 8:15 pm.
Hidari Daimonji(左大文字), meaning left "large" character on Daimonji-yama at 8:15 pm.
Toriigata (鳥居形), the shape of torii (鳥居), shrine gate at Toriimoto at 8:20 pm.
The most famous one is the character dai (大), therefore this event is also known as daimonji yaki(大文字焼き), literally character dai burning. Each bonfire lasts for 30 minutes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

終戦記念日(shusen kinenbi): The anniversary of the end of the war

Aug. 15 is shusen kinenbi(終戦記念日: literally the end of the war anniversary), in Japan. It's been 64 years since the world war II finished. At noon on Aug. 15, 1945 the Emperor announced the Japan's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration over the radio. It is called gyokuon hoso(玉音放送), Jewel Voice Broadcast.
During the world war II 2,120,000 people were dead, 240,000 people were killed by air raids. Since the beginning of the Second Sino-Japan War in 1937, there have been 3,300,000 victims. 111 cities were attacked by air raids and the bombardment of land by warships. 3,100,000 houses were burnt, destroyed or removed by force. Sufferers were totaled more than 8,800,000 people.
Every year since 1963 there has been a memorial service organized by the government with the presence of the Emperor, Empress, and Prime Minister at Budokan(武道館), Tokyo. It takes about one hour and from 12 noon they have a silent prayer for a minute. About 6,000 bereaved family members attended. The oldest attendance this year was 101 years old widow who lost her husband in Dec. 1944.

Friday, August 14, 2009

徹夜踊り(tetsuya odori): Dancing all night

There is a famous bon odori(盆踊り) called Gujo odori(郡上踊り) in Gifu (岐阜). It is one of the three biggest bon dancing in Japan. It has been held for 32 nights starting in the middle of July and lasting until the beginning of September. Dancing sites are different each day. Gujo odori starts around 8 and finishes around 10:30 usually and until 11:30 for Saturday in the night.
However from Aug. 13 to 16 people dance from 8 in the night till 5 in the morning. Therefore it is called tetsuy odori(徹夜踊り). Tetsuya means all night long. During these 4 days 250,000 visitors are expected to come and join the bon dancing.
People usually wear summer casual kimono called yukata (浴衣) and wooden clogs called geta (下駄).
It has 400 years old history. It has been designated as important intangible cultural property since Dec. 20, 1996. Interesting thing is the licenses will be issued to the good dancers.

I have been to Tetsuya Odori once in 2005.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

お盆(O bon ): Bon Festival

Obon (お盆) is a time to hold the Buddhist memorial service for the spirit of ancestors. Depends on the region it is held either in July or August. Many people have obon from Aug. 13 to 16.
In the evening of the 13th we make a fire called mukaebi(迎え火) in front of the house or temple to welcome the spirit so that they won't get lost on their way to come back home. In the evening of the 16th we make a fire called okuribi(送り火) in front of the house or temple to send them off.
Those who are living away from home will come home during obon time, so that there are traffic jams here and there. This holiday is called obon yasumi(お盆休み).
We usually offer the special table with fruits, vegetables, sweets, rice and water. We decorate the horse made of cucumber and the cow made of eggplant, that means they come quickly with a horse and leave slowly with a cow.
We usually visit and clean our ancestors' graves.
There are places to have flowing lantern called toro nagashi(灯籠流し) or shoro nagashi(精霊流し), and dance known as Bon-odori(盆踊り).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

徳島阿波踊り(Tokushima awa odori): Tokushima Awa Dance Festival

One of the most famous dancing festivals in Japan is Awa odori(阿波踊り), in Tokushima(徳島). Awa(阿波) is the old feudal administration name for Tokushima, Shikoku(四国) and odori(踊り) means dance. Awa odori is one of the three big Bon Dancing in Japan and one of the three big festivals in Shikoku.
It is held from Aug. 12 to 15. It has more than 400 years old history. The group of dancers is called ren (連), and there are more than 1000 ren dancing in the 7 sites for 4 days. More than 1.4 million visitors are expected to come to see the festival.

The song with chant is like this:
Erai yaccha, erai yaccha(えらいやっちゃ、えらいやっちゃ), Yoi, yoi, yoi, yoi(ヨイヨイヨイヨイ)
Odoru aho ni, miru aho (踊る阿呆に、見る阿呆: The dancers are fools, The watchers are fools)
Onaji aho nara, Odorana son, son (同じ阿呆なら、踊らな損損: Both are fools alike so, Why don't you dance?)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ガンバレの日(gambare no hi)

There is a set phrase which is used to cheer somebody up. That is gambare (ガンバレ、頑張れ). They say today is day of gambare because on Aug. 11, 1936 when there was the Berlin Olympics, in the 200m women's breast stroke race, Japanese swimmer Maehata Hideko(前畑秀子) got the first gold medal for Japanese women, at that time NHK announcer Kasai Sansei(河西三省) shouted "Maehata gambare! (前畑ガンバレ!), Maehata gambare!(前畑ガンバレ!)" for more than 20 times. This relay broadcast is recorded as great one in the history and became as a record and sold more than 110,000 copies. This was unusual.

Monday, August 10, 2009

66歳で富士登山666回(rokujuroku sai de fuji tozan roppyaku rokuju rokkai)

Recently I read an amazing article in the local newspaper. Mr. Jitsukawa Yoshinobu (実川欣信), 66 years old has climbed Mt. Fuji for 666 times on Aug. 3. He has been challenging to climb the highest of seven continents of the world since 2000. To climb Mt. Fuji is a training for him to strength in his legs. His dreams are to climb Mt. Fuji for 1000 times and climb the world highest Mt. Everest (8848m).
He climbed Mt. Fuji for the first time in 1985. Since 1993 he has started climbing in earnest and made many records. In the summer of 1993 he climbed to the summit and came down till 5th stage for 5 times in 30 hours. In 2008 from June 30 to Sep. 25 he has climbed there every day for 88 days, and he has climbed twice a day for 75 days out of 88. Last year he has climbed for 248 times.
Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and it is 3,776 meters high. I have climbed there once, but it was very tough. I don't think I would do it again.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

長崎原爆の日(nagasaki genbaku no hi)

It's been 64 years since the atomic bomb code-named Fat manwas dropped on Nagasaki(長崎) city. It was 11:02 AM. More than 74,000 people were killed, and more than 75,000 people were injured.
There was a memorial service today. About 5,800 people attended. Among them there were representatives of 29 countries and mayors of 87 cities from the world too. At 11:02 AM they offered a silent prayer for the dead.
In Nagasaki the 7th General Conference of Mayors for Peace is being held among 148 representatives from the cities of 20 countries from Aug. 7 to 10.
The official site of Mayors for Peace is

Saturday, August 8, 2009

仙台七夕まつり(sendai tanabata matsuri): Sendai Tanabata Festival

There was one of the three biggest festivals in Tohoku (東北) area recently. It was Sendai tanabata festival. It is held from Aug. 6 to 8 every year in the city of Sendai, another name is mori no miyako (杜の都), the city of forest.
There were more than 3000 bamboo tree decorations in the city. There were more than 2 million people visited the festival this year.
Official site of Sendai Tanabata Festivalis as follows (though it is written in Japanese only.)

When we say three big festivals in Tohoku, they are Aomori Nebuta, Akita Kanto, and Sendai Tanabata.
If we say four big festivals in Tohoku, in addition to those three, Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri(山形花笠まつり) which is held from Aug. 5 to 7 is included.

Friday, August 7, 2009

立秋(risshu):The first day of autumn

Today is risshu (立秋), the first day of autumn by the old calendar. Risshu is one of the nijyushisekki (二十四節気), the 24 solar terms. The last one was taisho (大暑) on July 23 and the next one is shosho (処暑)on Aug. 23.
Though it is autumn in the old calender, in reality the heat will increase from now. However our greeting is changed between before and after risshu. Before risshu we say shochu omimai moushi agemasu(暑中お見舞い申し上げます), but after risshu we say zansho omimai moushi agemasu(残暑お見舞い申し上げます), meaning I hope you are doing fine in spite of this lingering summer heat. Zansho (残暑: literally remain heat) means the late summer heat.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

広島原爆の日(Hiroshima genbaku no hi): Memorial Day of Hiroshima

It's been 64 years since the first atomic bomb, code-named "Little Boy" was dropped from the US B-29 Superfortress bomber named "Enola Gay" over the Hiroshima city. It was 8:15 in the morning. More than 140,000 people were killed and the city was totally destroyed. There are more than 250,000 people who became the victims of the atomic bomb including the deaths caused by its radiation.
Every year there is a memorial service in the Hiroshima city on this day from 8 in the morning. This year there were representatives from 59 countries which was the most in the history.
At night there was the event called toro nagashi(灯籠流し)Lantern Floating, about 8000 paper lanterns were floating down the river near the Atomic bomb dome to guide the spirits of the departed back to the other world.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

タクシーの日(takushi no hi): Day of Taxi

They say Aug. 5 is day of taxi because the first taxi company in Japan started its business on this day in 1912 in Tokyo. This day was established by Tokyo Taxi Association in 1984 and has been practiced since 1985.
At that time (1912) they used 6 Ford Model T. There were no cruising taxis but they were called by phone. Customers were either foreigners or rich people, therefore drivers' salary was more than that of college graduates because they got tips.
Before taxi appeared, there were kago (駕篭), basket palanquin or jinrikisha (人力車), Rickshaw (two-wheeled cart run by human power) in Japan.
There are still jinrikisha in sightseeing spots in Japan.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

はしの日(hashi no hi)

Aug. 4 is written as 8.4, and read as ha (8) shi (4). Therefore today is day of hashi. If we say just hashi, there are some homonyms, but we usually imagine three different words: one is chopsticks (箸), the other is bridge (橋), and another is edge (端).
Today is hashi no hi (箸の日), Day of Chopsticks and hashi no hi (橋の日), Day of Bridge.
Day of Chopsticks was established in 1975 by the disposable wooden chopsticks association to think of chopsticks such as reviewing the food life or how to hold chopsticks correctly. There is a special thanksgiving ceremony for chopsticks to offer 1 meter long chopsticks and to burn old chopsticks at the Hie jinja (日枝神社: Hie Shrine), Akasaka.
Day of Bridge was established in 1986. It is a day to thank the bridges which have close relationships with our lives and culture, and to review one's home town through the connection of bridges and rivers.

Monday, August 3, 2009

秋田竿灯まつり(akita kanto matsuri): Akita Kanto Festival

Akita kanto matsuri(秋田竿灯まつり) is one of the three big festivals in Tohoku area which is called as Tohoku sandai matsuri(東北三大祭). It started on Aug. 3 and lasts till Aug. 6. It has about 240 years tradition and is a big event attracts more than 1,300,000 visitors every year.
Kanto (竿灯) is a pole with lanterns looks like ears of rice. The tallest one is about 12 meters long and the weight is about 50kg. Men called shashite (差し手) hold the pole with waist or shoulder or forehead according to the cheering shouts. There are 253 poles with about 10,000 lanterns parading on the main street this year.

The official WEB site is

Sunday, August 2, 2009

青森ねぶた祭(aomori nebuta matsuri): Aomori Nebuta Festival

There are many summer festivals in Japan. One of the most famous Japanese festivals is Aomori Nebuta matsuri(青森ねぶた祭), which is held from Aug. 2 to 7 every year in Aomori (青森), the northernmost prefecture of the mainland.
It is one of the three largest Tohoku (東北) festivals. It was decreed an important intangible cultural property of the country's folk culture in 1980.
Nebuta refers to the float of brave warrior-figure which is carried through the center of the city. They are about 5 meters tall and 9 meters wide. There are 22 floats this year. There is a contest of floats which will be awarded on Aug. 6.
Around the floats there are dancers called haneto (ハネト) whose chant is "Rassera(ラッセーラ)." They wear special costumes. You can buy or rent Nebuta Costume in Aomori city and join dancing if you like.
More than 3 million visitors are expected to come during the festival.

The official WEB site of this festival is

Saturday, August 1, 2009

八月(hachi gatsu): August

A new month has started. August is hachi gatsu(八月) in Japanese. Its old name is ha zuki(葉月), literally leaf month.
August is the hottest month and there are so many festivals here and there in Japan.
They say today is kanko no hi(観光の日), day of sightseeing, which was established by the Prime Minister's Office (now the Cabinet Office) in 1965. From Aug. 1 to 7 is the Sightseeing Week which was established by the Prime Minister's Office in May 1965 and practiced. However it has been practiced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport since 2001.
In 1965 since July was the month of sightseeing set by the United Nations, a week from July 7 was decided as a sightseeing week, but since 1966 it has been moved to August because there are more tourists in August.
August is a time of summer vacation. However different from the United States, in Japanese schools it is still in the middle of school year, therefore students have lots of homework to do at home. They can't enjoy the summer vacation from the bottom of their heart. Japanese school summer vacation in the mainland is usually about 40 days from the middle of July to the end of August.
Working people usually take some days off in the middle of August, and many people go back to their home town to visit their ancestor's grave. This time is called o bon(お盆).