The Catholic Church and Japan's Traditional Holidays

Japan is a country that has four distinct seasons. Based upon the seasons there are a number of festivals that are held throughout the year. The seasons represent not only climate changes but also the season's of human life.
Christianity in Japan has a history of over 400 years since it was introduced to Japan beginning with the missionary work of Saint Francisco Xaxier in 1545. A number of traditional events or festivals unique to Japanese culture have been incorporated into the church calendar besides the holidays of Easter and Christmas. In this home page, Japan's seasonal events will be introduced as well as how they are celebrated in the church.

Jan. 1, New Years' Day

The New Year to Japanese is the year's most important event. On New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, it is a custom to eat soba (buckwheat) noodles in hopes of living a long life. Also at temples across Japan's bells are rung at midnight to welcome the new year.

New Year's Day also known as "Ganjitsu" or "Gantan" in Japanese and Jan 1st, 2nd, and 3rd are called "San-ga-nichi" in Japanese meaning the three days and are the traditional days for celebrating the new year. During these three days almost all shops and business are closed to allow people to spend time with their families. At church too, New Year's day is celebrated with a morning mass in order to give thanks to god.

Jan 15th, Adult's Day

Jan 15th is Adult's day. On this day throughout Japan, 20 year olds are recognized by society as adults. At church no special event is held on this day but this event is marked every year on the Sunday nearest Jan 15th with a special blessing for these new adults.

April, School Year Begins

In Japan, April marks the beginning of the new fiscal year for both the public and private sector. For example, schools hold their graduation ceremonies in March and the school entrance ceremony is held in April. Also most companies have their new employees start work in April. 
Early April is also the season for viewing cherry blossoms. As the cherry blossom come into full bloom, consequently the new students and new company employees are easily recognized wearing in their brand-new uniforms.
Also at church, Sunday school classes and student group begin again for the entire year.

May, Mother's Day

Mother's Day started in America in 1914, whereas in Japan Mother’s Day recognition began after the 2nd World War. At Church too, on the second Sunday of May, Mother's are given a special blessing at the end of Mass.

Aug. Cool Evening Events

Japanese summers are extremely hot and humid. To avoid the daytime heat, several events such as fireworks are held in evening. This custom began several hundred years ago and continues until the present.
At Yurigaoka Church in August, an evening event is held for the parishioners where they can relax and feel at home.

Sept. 15, Respect for Aged Day

On this day Society recognizes and gives thanks to the elderly. Throughout the world Japan has the longest life expectancy. It is not clear at what age a person becomes a senior citizen. Within Yurigaoka Church, the elderly are considered those of 70 or older and on this day they are anointed with oil for good health and a continued long life.

Nov. 15; 3, 5, 7-year-olds Day

For children of ages: 3, 5, and 7, parents bring their children to Shinto Shrines to pray for their continued growth and good health. More specifically this event is held for girls of 3 and 7 years old and boys of 5 years of age.
Since Christians do not attend the events at the shrine, this event is commemorated at the Church on Sunday nearest Nov. 15th. On this Sunday the children are especially dressed up in Kimono, Japanese traditional garment, and receive a blessing during mass.