Interesting Japanese Traditions To Make Your Trip Memorable
Japan has a reputation of being unique and quirky. Wherever you are in the country, you will find at least one very interesting thing that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Whether rows and rows of vending machines on sidewalks or wasabi-flavored sweets, it never fails to leave people in awe, fascinated. For this reason, many people have fallen in love with it, and want to keep coming back to see what more it has to offer.
On your next visit to Japan, you should include in your itinerary some of the most interesting Japanese traditions that can make your trip a lot more fun and memorable. The following are examples of these:
Taking part in a Dondo Yaki ceremony
There are countless shrines and temples in Japan. These places are where the Japanese people honor Buddhist or Shinto gods by praying to them to receive good luck and blessings. They typically have small stores or stalls where you can get charms and other similar items to keep for yourself as a souvenir.
However, on certain times of the year, these Shinto shrines hold an event where the people can bring all the lucky charms that they have accumulated in the past year, and burn every single one in a large ceremonial fire pit. Doing so wards off the bad luck, and helps attract more good luck for the coming year.
Eating KFC for Christmas Eve
In your home country, KFC is probably where you go to grab a quick meal on any normal day. However, in Japan, KFC is regarded differently, and is seen as a popular food to enjoy for dinner on Christmas Eve.
Many Japanese would spend hours in lines outside of KFC stores in Japan just to get chicken to serve for this special holiday. Some would even order in advance to guarantee that they can get what they want before everything gets sold out.
Putting a towel on your head at an onsen
Japan’s onsen or hot spring resorts are incredible. Whether you are in the northern mountains of Hokkaido or southern countrysides of Kyushu, you can find a wide selection of natural hot spring baths that can help relax your tired and tensed muscles after a long day of sightseeing.
When at an onsen, it is important to be mindful of the etiquette. You should take all of your clothes off, and clean yourself thoroughly with soap and water before getting into the hot spring. You are provided a small towel that should you should not dip or soak in the bath area to not contaminate the water. Instead, you put it on your head to keep it out of the onsen water’s way.
Leaving a love lock behind
In many tourist sites in Japan, you can find small areas covered with locks of different shapes, colors, and sizes. These places are romantic spots where couples leave a lock that represents their love to each other, usually marked with their names. They then throw away the key into the sea or someplace else where it cannot be retrieved.
One of the more popular love lock locations in the country is the Love Bell of Enoshima Island. If you are traveling with your special someone, you can go there and ring the bell together to bring good luck to your relationship, and leave a lock with your names. You can then spend a few more minutes to enjoy a fantastic view of the sea and the horizon from there.
Sitting on tatami floors seiza-style
If you have watched Japanese dramas or movies, you have probably seen how the Japanese sit on tatami floors. It is a traditional way of sitting in Japan known as seiza. You can do it by first getting into a kneeling position on the floor, with your legs folded under your thighs, and then resting your bottom on your heels. Your ankles should be turned outward and the tops of your feet lowered.
At some restaurants, you might have to sit this way while eating. Just be warned though that it can be hard to stay in that same position for so long. If you are not used to it, your knees, ankles, and feet might hurt after some time, and you might want to change positions, and stretch your legs. Do not worry so much about appearing rude or disrespectful because, as you are a foreigner, you will typically be forgiven.
If you are in Japan to welcome the New Year, you should do your best to not miss hatsuhi, or the first sunrise of the New Year. On New Year’s Day, Japanese families wake up real early to prepare a large feast. They serve osechi-ryori, which is made up of a wide selection of dishes that include ozone, a type of soup that has mochi rice cake; datemaki, which is sweet rolled omelette; namasu, a dish made up of daikon and carrot salad; kamaboko, which is fish cake with salmon roe; and ebi no umani, which is simmered shrimp.
And, while they eat, they await for the sun to rise to start the first day of the year. Afterwards, they may partake in other activities, like hatsumode, the first visit to a shrine for the New Year; bonfires, which are common at temples and shrines that host hatsumode; and watch the Emperor’s Greeting, which occurs at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo every 2nd of January.
Reserving a spot using blue mats
During festivals, hanami, and other events, it can be hard to find the best spot to enjoy the spectacle. For this reason, the Japanese go to the venue quite early to search for an area where they can get great views of the parade, fireworks show, and others. They then leave blue mats to reserve a spot that they like.
The Japanese know to not touch blue mats that are already in place. They understand that that particular spot is already taken, so they have to look for an available space somewhere else to claim for themselves.
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