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Shichifukushin - The Seven Deities of Good Fortune

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Each of the January banners were contributed by Roger Fung, a student in the AIJP from Hong Kong.

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Shichifukushin - The Seven Deities of Good Fortune

During the New Year, temples and shrines in Japan are filled with visitors both young and old. They pay their respects and pray for success and safety for their families and friends to the Shichifukushin, the Seven Deities of Good Fortune.

Shichifukushin is a bizarre assortment of gods and saints from 3 countries and 3 religions; Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto. These deities are said to be bringers of happiness, wealth and longevity.

From the first of January, the icons of these gods are unveiled to the public until dates such as the 3rd, 7th, 15th, 20th or the 31st.

(Source - 'Annual Calendar: January' http://jin.jcic.or.jp/kidsweb/calendar/january/shichifukushin.html)

Nengajyou - New Year greeting cards

Sending and receiving Christmas cards or birthday cards are a rarity in Japan; but because of the importance of the New Year, massive amounts of Nengajou (New Year greeting cards) are sent during December and received in January.

Traditionally, there was a custom of visiting relatives, neighbours, accomplices and so on during the first few days of January. However after the post office started issuing postcards in the Meiji period (1868-1912), people began sending such greeting cards instead.

In response to increasing demand for these postcards, the post office started a service where greeting cards will be delivered on the first of January if they were sent by a certain date in December. In 1949, lottery numbers were also appended to the postcards, with the lucky individuals being able to receive prizes.

As a result, the nengajyou and the practice of sending them, became immensely popular. Today the post office prints up to more than 4 billion prize-carrying New Year cards every year.

These cards are decorated in many ways ranging from colour markers to ink to woodblock prints. Also, with the increasing availibility of the personal computer, many create original cards using them.

Popular graphical elements include New Year motifs such as 'kadomatsu', which is a decoration made of pine branches, kites, plum flowers and sunrise on Mount Fuji on New Year's day. In addition, animals of the Chinese zodiac are also popular amongst Nangajou designs.

(Source - 'Annual Calendar: January' http://jin.jcic.or.jp/kidsweb/calendar/january/nengajo.html)

Seijin-no-hi Coming of Age Day

Japan celebrated a public holiday called "Seiji-no-hi" (Coming of Age Day). Although young adults reach the legal age on their 20th birthday and from there on are entitled to vote, allowed to smoke tobacco, purchase alcohol etc, and have all of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, local governments hold special ceremonies on "Seijin-no-hi" to mark the rite of passage.

The age of 20 is a big turning point for Japanese people. The ceremonies are supposed.....

Continued at http://www.yamasa.org/acjs/network/english/newsletter/things_japanese_24.html


Daruma doll fairs are held throughout Japan at the beginning of the year. The largest and most famous one is held in the Darumadera, a temple in Takasaki, Gunma prefecture, on the 6th and 7th of January . These dolls portray a likeness of Bodhiharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism in the sixth century.

According to legend the Indian monk meditated for so long he lost the use of his legs. This the reason why the daruma doll has no limbs. It is a 'roly-poly' doll that always returns to upright position when tipped or rocked. The doll serves as a good luck charm helping people to fulfill their wishes; it also encourages one not to give up even when others are trying to 'knock them over'.

The eyes of the doll are not painted until one is purchased, in which the buuyer paints in one eye whilst making a wish; the other eye is painted when the wish is fulfilled.

(Source - 'Annual Calendar: January' http://jin.jcic.or.jp/kidsweb/calendar/january/daruma.html)

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