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Okazaki City Guide
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  • January
  • January 1st

    This is arguably the most important day of the year. After sitting around eating, drinking and watching TV, it seems as though most of the city is out at midnight, heading to temples to ring in the new year with the temple bells. It is a time when most people are on holidays (many companies are closed, it is usually only people in the retail sector who are working). Most of the temples and shrines provide warm "amazake" (sweet sake) to the midnight visitors and for the more close knit communities in the city it is mix of revelry and obligation.

    One of the things you will notice is the tradition of writing "Nengajo" (New Year's Cards, sent in Japan instead of Christmas cards). These are on sale everywhere, though many people these days print their own using their computers.

    January 3rd

    The Yamanaka Hachiman-gu Den Den Gassari, in Maki-cho.This is a fascinating and popular Shinto harvest ceremony of tradition.

    Early January

    Dezome-shiki, on the Sugo River banks near the castle. This is a parade of the city fire brigades, bring a camera for the fire ladder acrobatics.

  • February

  • This is the coldest time of the year. There is often light snowfall. It is also a good time to observe some interesting festivals.

    February 3rd or 4th

    February 3rd or 4th: Setsu-bun (bean-throwing festival) On either the 3rd or 4th of February, Setsubun, an event in which many households participate in a bean-throwing ceremony (mame-maki). A wooden measuring cup-like container, known as a 'masu' is filled with roasted soya-beans. Whilst shouting 'Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!' ('Out with the goblins and in with Fortune!'), these beans are then thrown around the rooms of a household.

    According to the traditional Japanese calendar, this mame-maki began as a New Year ceremony to drive out evil spirits and misfortune and to pray for the family's well-being all year round.

    Takisanji Oni Matsuri

    The Oni Matsuri (Ogre or fire festival) is held here every February - usually on the Saturday closest to February 7th as this is the the New Year in the old Lunar Calendar. Part of the festival involves blessings for 42, 25, and 12 year old males - of which about 3 males are selected as representatives for participation in a ceremony held in the main hall.
    The 3 males wear ceremonial masks - the 42 year wears the mask of a grandfather, the 25 year old the mask of a grandmother, and the young boy wears the mask of a grandson. In addition, about 30 men (usually but not necessarily elderly men) who were born in a year with the same sign of the Chinese zodiac as the year of the festival participate in a ceremony holding burning torches. The festival is famous in the Mikawa region as a traditional religious ceremony to greet the beginning of spring.
    Oni Matsuri
    Oni Matsuri2
    Oni Matsuri3
    Oni Matsuri4
  • March

  • Although the winter Okazaki is comparatively mild, the first signs of Spring bring out the smiles. In places such as Minami Koen it's a good time to see the plum blossoms start to bloom.

    Plum Blossoms


    Hina Matsuri


    The 3rd of every March is Hina Matsuri, also known as Doll Festival or Girls' Festival, where families pray for the happiness and health of their daughters; such families mark this day by setting up a display of dolls inside their home.
    With the dolls acting as a charm, this practice began during the Edo period (1603-1868) as a way of warding off evil spirits.
    Hina Matsuri
    Hina Matsuri2
    Hina Matsuri3
    Hina Matsuri4

    The dolls don costumes of the imperial court during the Heian period (794-1192). The number of steps on the platform where the different sized dolls are placed is usually five to seven layers. Single-tiered displays with one male and one female doll are also common.
    Emperor and Empress
    Three ladies in waiting
    The Ministers

    A typical display would be something in the likes of this: the top tier is exclusively for the emperor and empress. Like the real Imperial throne of the ancient court, a minature gilded folding screen is placed behind them. The second tier sits three ladies-in-waiting, and the third tier sits five male court musicians. Ministers sit on either side of trays of food on the fourth tier and the fifth tier features guards flanked by an orange tree to their left and a cherry tree to their right.
    The display of dolls is installed at around mid-February and put away promptly as soon as the festival is over. According to an old superstition families that are slow in putting away the dolls have trouble marrying off their daughters.
    Later in the month, it is worth heading to northern Okazaki to Okuyamada-cho (near the Hokuto-dai housing complex) to see the "Weeping Cherry Tree". According to the legends, this tree was planted 1300 years ago by the Empress Jito. The flowers bloom a little bit earlier than the trees near the castle and have beautiful pink blossoms.

    ©Declan Murphy / Frontia Corporation - All rights reserved
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