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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ko-shogatsu

The annual National Center Test for University Admissions is conducted throughout Japan on January 15th and 16th, but it's snowing in many areas.  The test serves as the preliminary hurdle for those seeking entrance to public universities. Recently, more private schools have adopted the test.

The first three days of the new year are called sanga nichi or Shogatsu(正月). The 15th day of the 1st month has been called Ko-shogatsu(小正月) which literally means minor shogatsu.

Housewives used to be busy for reception to visitors or relatives for the three days, but they took a rest on January 15th. So it is said New Year holidays for women. Originally the period called matsu-no-uchi(松の内)last until January 15th.
Ancient people had the custom of eating rice gruel with sweet adzuki beans on this day.


The events of Ko-shogatsu include Sagicho(左義長), Torioi(鳥追い: driving off birds) and Tsunahiki(綱引き: tug of war).

Sagicho is an event to burn New Year's decorations or calligraphy works written on January 2nd. It's also called Dondo-yaki(どんど焼き). The event is thought to be held to pray for good harvests, good health and the safety of families or to send the god of the New Year back to the sky by burning things related to Shogatsu. This event is held across the country.

Torioi is thought to be held to pray for protecting rice paddies from birds. Children parade through the town singing a song.
Tsunahiki is a tug-of-war between two neighboring villages or areas to tell whether crops would be good or not.
These events are still held in areas such as Tohoku and Shinetsu.

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