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Bonenkai Parties
Bonenkai are Japanese office parties held in December. The term literally
means "forget the year party." Most companies hold at least one. In many
cases they are held at the company, department and team levels. People also
have bonenkai with friends. All of these parties make it difficult to get
reservations at popular izakaya in December.

2. Fukusasa Lucky Bamboo Branches

Several shrines in Japan hold a market to sell bamboo branches decorated
with lucky items to local business people in January. The biggest of these
events, the Toka Ebisu Festival in Osaka attracts more than a million people.
Armies ofMiko are hired to decorate the branches known as Fukusasa.

3. Zabuton Throwing
Sumo stadiums typically offer tatami sections with zabuton pillow seats. It's
customary to express your frustration with the result of a sumo match
bythrowing your zabuton pillow.

4. Yamayaki Mountain Burning

The Japanese language has a single word for burning down a mountain:
yamayaki. A yamayaki is a festival that involves burning the vegetation from
a mountain before Spring. These can be visually stunning and are often
combined with a fireworks show. Various stories are used to explain how the
tradition began including ancient land disputes and problems with wild

5. Mamemaki Bean Throwing

Setsubun is a Japanese holiday celebrated on the eve before spring according
to the Japanese lunar calendar. It's traditionally believed that the spirit world
comes close to our world at this time and that demons are likely to appear.
OnSetsubun, parents throughout Japan put on an oni mask and try to scare
their kids. The kids in turn throw roasted soybeans to scare the demon away.

6. Mochi Making
Mochi are rice cakes traditionally made by pounding a variety of rice known
asmochigome with a large wooden mallet. The result is a paste that's formed
into shapes such as blocks. Mochi are an ingredient in a wide variety of
simple foods and are extremely popular. Much like bread, it's rare to meet
someone who doesn't like mochi.
Factory produced mochi and mochi-making home appliances are widely
available. However, many families enjoy making it the traditional way for
special occasions such as New Years.

7. Ehomaki Sushi Rolls

Ehomaki are a Setsubun tradition that involves eating an entire uncut roll of
sushi while facing a lucky direction that changes each year. This was once
only practiced in Osaka but has spread nationwide in recent years due to the
marketing efforts of Japanese convenience stores. Eating ehomaki is an
auspicious activity that's done in complete silence.

8. KFC On Christmas Eve

The Japanese are familiar with the western custom of eating a turkey dinner
for Christmas. However, turkeys are difficult to find in Japan and most ovens
in Japanese apartments and homes are too small for a turkey. As a substitute,
many people prepare a roast chicken dinner instead. It's also remarkably
popular to eat KFC on Christmas Eve. There are long queues at every KFC
in the country on this day. Naturally, KFC encourages this with intensive
marketing and Christmas themed sets.

9. Sumo Salt
Sumo wrestlers purify the ring when they enter by tossing salt up in the air.
Some wrestlers are particularly good at making a show of this by tossing the
salt dramatically towards the ceiling. This tradition is related to a ritual
known as Harae that's used to purify Shinto Shrines. Although it's often
translated "purification", Harae is really an exorcism that's believed to drive
out bad spirits.
10. Towel On Head At Onsen
Onsen are one of Japan's favorite pastimes. According to local traditions
onsen waters must remain pure and people completely bathe before entering
the water. People bring a small towel into the bath area for this purpose. The
towel has been used to wash and shouldn't enter the bath water. This is a
predicament because there's often no place to put the towels. The traditional
solution is to put it on your head.
11. Bowing
Bowing is an important tradition in Japan that applies to a wide variety of
situations from sports to weddings. They vary from slight bows when
greeting a friend to a rare deep kowtow for a profound apology.
12. Love Locks
Any spot in Japan that's considered romantic such as observation decks with
a good view of a city are always busy with couples. One old tradition
amongst couples is to write a message on a lock and leave it at a romantic
spot. Typically, the couple then throws the key somewhere it can never be
retrieved such as into the sea. Japan has dozens of love lock spots such as
the Love Bell of Enoshima Island. In most locations, the tradition is
encouraged by the attraction. It's very unusual for couples in Japan to leave
behind a love lock without permission.

13. Floating Lanterns

The Japanese tradition of floating lanterns in rivers, known as Toro
Nagashi is a ceremony that represents the journey of souls to the afterlife. It's
used to celebrate the Japanese Obon holiday, a time of year when it's
believed that the spirits of loved ones return to the world. Toro
Nagashi ceremonies are also used to commemorate tragic events such as
the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima.

14. Sitting Seiza

Seiza is a traditional way to sit on Japanese tatami floors. It's considered the
appropriate way to sit at formal occasions such as rituals at a Shinto Shrine.
It's also widely used in Japanese martial arts where posture may be strictly
corrected. The average person finds seiza challenging to hold for long
periods of time. Older people and anyone who isn't practiced at it find it
extremely difficult and are typically forgiven if they need to sit with their
legs in front of them.

15. Dondo Yaki

Dondo Yaki is the tradition of burning lucky items such as Omikuji at Shinto
Shrines in January. It's considered bad form to throw luck items in the trash,
instead they should be burned. Auspicious items sold by shrines are often
decorated with the Japanese zodiac symbol of the current year and it's
thought to be bad luck to hold on to them after the year ends.

16. Hatsuhi Sunrise

Hatsuhi, literally "first sun", is the Japanese tradition of waking up to see the
first sunrise of the year on New Year's Day. In Japan, families have a big
traditional breakfast on New Year's Day and usually wake up early anyway.
The day is associated with numerous rituals and pastimes.

17. Fundoshi at Festivals

Fundoshi are traditional Japanese loincloths that were historically worn as
men's underwear and as outwear by laborers and rickshaw drivers. Today
they are commonly worn to festivals. They are also famously worn
by sumowrestlers.

18. Summer Yukata

Yukata are inexpensive traditional cotton robes that are widely worn to
summer matsuri in Japan. They are worn by both men and women and help
to give events a festive feel.
19. Irasshaimase!
Irasshaimase is the traditional way to welcome customers in Japan that's
essentially an ultra-polite way to say "please come in." It's said by staff in
Japan when they first see a customer. Staff at busy locations such as
department stores might say it thousands of times a day, each time a
customer passes. Atizakaya it's common for all the staff to yell
"Irasshaimase!" in unison whenever a customer enters. This can have quite a
dramatic effect when done right. Most Japanese businesses take this
welcoming phase quite seriously. Staff who welcome customers with an
apathetic tone may be disciplined. As a customer, there's no need to reply to

20. Rooster Rakes

Tori-no-ichi, literally "Rooster Rake", is the Japanese business custom of
buying a bamboo rake decorated with lucky symbols at the end of the year.
Markets for Tori-no-ichi pop up all over Japan on the days of the rooster
in November. It's common for business people to negotiate a price for their
rake. When a deal is stuck it's sealed with a traditional hand clapping ritual.
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