Japan has four distinct seasons, and there are many traditional events and holidays throughout the year that celebrate the seasons. Along with the seasonal changes, you also see changes in the food, and since long, Japanese have favoured eating dishes made using fresh seasonal ingredients.
One of the ways to enjoy a trip to Japan is to be aware of the major events and festivals, customs and traditions including food available in each month. In this feature, we talk about some of the customs and traditions that have been followed over the centuries in the month of June.
June is also known as Minazuki (水無月), literally meaning “month without water.” According to the Gregorian calendar, June happens to be the rainy season. Then come how in Japanese this month refers to having no water? Actually this alias is according to the lunar calendar. June in the lunar calendar is almost July in the solar calendar. July is hot and dry and this name is, therefore, apt for the first dry month of summer.
No public holidays or festivals
The first thing that many Japanese notice is that there are no public holidays in June. Therefore, it isn’t a popular month among those who love social gatherings.
Rainy Season (Tsuyu or Baiyu, 梅雨)
Although there are no festivals in June, it is a unique month as it is considered the rainy season in Japan. The characters for Tsuyu/Baiyu literally mean “plum rain.” Plums are the first fruit to start ripening in Japan around June 11 thus justifying the name.
June is said to be overcast with very little sunshine. Traveling can be quite inconvenient due to rains. But the Japanese still have a lot of special feelings this season. The natural beauty that most Japanese associate with June is that of hydrangeas in full bloom. These beautiful flowers in blue, pink, white look extremely elegant with drops of water glistening on them. There are many famous spots in Japan for viewing hydrangea!
Father’s Day, third Sunday of June
Although Father’s Day was introduced to Japan by the West, it has now become a part of Japanese culture similar to Mother’s Day.
Around Father’s Day, you will see various men’s brands offering special items. Of course, it’s also a good shopping opportunity for boys as there are many sales and discounts.
Nagoshi-no-harae: summer purification rites, June 30
Performed on the last day of June, Nagoshi-no-Harae (夏越の祓) is a purification ritual that has been performed at shrines since ancient times. People purify themselves from the sins committed in the first half of the year to start afresh. Many temples and shrines set up a Chinowa (large wreath of cogon grass). People pass through this circle to ward off evil and disasters.
You have go through the ring in the manner shown below forming a figure eight. If you visit in June, don’t miss out on this unique tradition.
These days you can buy almost any ingredient throughout the year. However, it is best to eat what’s in season as that produce is the most delicious. If you come to Japan in June, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients.
Seafood: Sweetfish (ayu, アユ), turban shell (sazae, サザエ), conger eel (hamo, ハモ)
Fruits and vegetables: Unripe plums (ao-ume, 青梅), loquat (biwa, ビワ), plums (プラム), cherries (sakuranbo, サクランボ), French beans (sayaingen,サヤインゲン), perilla (shiso, シソ)
Japanese sweets: Minadzuki (水無月) (triangles of sweet rice jelly topped with adzuki beans)
Hope this feature has given you a good idea of what to expect in Japan during June. Keep an eye out for some of the things mentioned here and you’re sure to have a wonderful holiday in Japan.
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