Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Celebrate Rich Japanese Culture in March

March is a big month for Japan with numerous festivals and events to celebrate the rich Japanese culture. March begins with the annual Awashima-jinja Shrine Festival. The Awashima-jinja Shrine is trusted by many women for marriage and the safe delivery of children. During the festival, people can touch the "shintai," the religious object that is said to bring blessing to children. An offering of ladles that are associated with the legend of Awashima-jinja Shine will also take place during the festival. A memorial service is held for old needles and paper doll amulets are gathered. A Shinto priest purifies them, then the misfortunes and and impurities of the year are imbued into them. In a ritual called "nagashibina" the dolls are put into a small boat and floated into the ocean, carrying the year's misfortunes with them. 

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The Oyama Tofu Festival is also held in March. This festival is held at the Tofu Plaza to celebrate Oyama's famous tofu. Large pieces of tofu are offered to "kamidana" Shinto altars in order to give thanks and pray for participants' health. Other events and contests are held during this time including eating contests and handmade tofu making contests. 
The Shonan Enoshima Spring Festival is held in mid-march to celebrate the coming of spring in Shonan. During this festival events such as a comedy concert, open-air tea ceremony, shell festival parade, and taiko drum performances take place. 

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March closes with two events known as the "Yudate Shishi-mai" Dance and the Odawara Kamaboko Sakura Festival. During the "Yudate Shishi-mai" Dance a shrine with a giant kettle is constructed. The giant kettle is filled with hot water and the "Shishi-mai" dance, or lion dance, is performed next to it. The kettle is stirred with bundles of bamboo grass and "yubana", hot springs of mineral deposits, is sprinkled over the heads of attendees to pray for their health. The Odawara Kamaboko Sakura Festival is held in Joshi Park, a place famous for its sakura, or cherry blossoms. Performances by master kamaboko, fish cake, makers and an Odawara diako drum performance are included in the celebration.

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