今月の文化 2021年 3月 ホワイトデー

March has many events. White Day is a famous one. It’s a day to return gifts to the people who gave you chocolates on Valentine’s day. This event started in Japan around 1980, and now other Asian countries like Korea and China celebrate White Day as well.

When I was a child, the standard return gifts for White Day were marshmallows and candies. Nowadays, I feel not many people follow that tradition. I see a variety of return gifts such as flowers, chocolates, and cookies.

I have been wondering since high school about return gifts and replies to confessions of love on Valentin’es Day. Does a girl have to wait for a whole month to get a reply to her confession of love on Valentine’s Day? Would she get a return gift in a month only if the boy said yes? What if the boy said no? Would she receive some sort of return gift from him still?
I guess it differs from person to person, but I always felt this was a weird custom.

今月の文化 2021年 2月 寒中見舞い

As for February, Setsubun is the most famous event. Usually, Setsubun falls on February 3rd, but this year Setsubun fell on February 2nd. This is a very rare thing. The last time it happened was in 1987. In 1884, Setsubun was on February 4th. The reason for that is because Risshun, the start of spring day, falls on a different day this year. Setsubun is the day before Risshun, so if Risshun moves Setsubun moves as well.

Risshun is the deadline for sending kanchu-mimai. Kanchu-mimai is like a winter version of shochu-mimai. You can send kanchu-mimai when you want to reply to a nengajo but it’s too late to send a nengajo yourself, or when you want to send a greeting card to someone who had a family member die the previous year.

Nengajo should be sent by January 8th, within the matsunouchi period. If you want to send a greeting card after matsunouchi, you can send kanchu-mimai instead. Also, if a family member died during the previous year, the mourning period started and lasts for a year. That year is called mochu. You should not send nengajo during mochu. If you receive nengajo during mochu and you want to send some kind of greeting card in response, you can send kanchu-mimai instead.

Kanchu-mimai is not as famous as nengajo, but it is a useful tool to use. Kanchu-mimai are only sent between January 8th and Risshun, so be careful not to miss it.

今月の文化 2021年 1月 大雪

It’s already one month since the new year began. It seems like many people may have gone out during the New Year’s holiday, because since the new year began the number of infected people has grown a lot. I hope people can recover quickly and not fall into serious illness.

Anyway, the infection is not the only big topic of the new year. Amazingly, Japan has once again received a huge amount of snow. In the middle of January, the Sea of Japan region was dumped on by a big snow storm. The highways and main roads experienced many traffic accidents. On top of that, in one hour such an amount of snow fell that traffic was no longer able to move.

According to the news, because of the inability to access the highways, some people had to live in their cars on the highway for 3 days. It was truly a terrible snow. The weather recently has become so strange that some years we have almost no snow at all, and some years like this year we have terrible snows. When snow is so heavy that it affects transportation, it becomes difficult to transport food, to go to the hospital, and so on. I realized how important it is to keep up a stock of emergency rations.

When it snows, a lot of snow builds up on the roofs of buildings. Snow is quite heavy, so sometimes buildings collapse under the added weight. Because of this, we have to shovel the snow from the roofs of our houses. This is called “yane yuki oroshi.” Climbing up onto a snow-covered roof is terribly dangerous. Many people slip and fall off of their roofs.

When doing yane yuki oroshi, make sure to be safe and always work with 2 or more people.

今月の文化 2020年 12月 今年の思い出

For areas celebrating the new year on January 1st, it’s common to have a family gathering at the end of December. In Japan, the new year is a big family homecoming season. However, just like Obon, people won’t gather together or travel as much as usual this year due to COVID-19.

Looking back on this year, I feel like I have been writing about COVID-19 a lot. It shows how much COVID-19 has affected Japanese cultural events this year, as it has been with many countries.

Until this year, we have been continuing the same traditions to pass on our culture to younger generations, through demonstrations and first hand experience. However, since the pandemic began we have been forced to think of other ways of continuing traditional cultural events. This year saw a lot of bad things happen, but good things happened too. We saw a lot of people work hard to protect others. The world is going to change even more the coming year, but I am looking forward to seeing the changes.

今月の文化 2020年 11月 みんなで協力しよう

Thanksgiving falls at the end of November. Not every country has a Thanksgiving holiday, but in America most people travel to their hometowns to have Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Unfortunately, this year it is difficult to gather together with families. Even in Japan, coronavirus is coming back again, and it is being called the third wave of the pandemic.

This year has been eventful. In Japan, March through May saw the first wave of coronavirus, along with a state of emergency and the start of telework, the closing of stores, classes moving online, and the disappearance of people walking around on the streets. After that, the energy gradually returned only to be hit by a second wave in August. People traveling during summer vacation were the apparent cause of the second wave. Now it’s the third wave, and even though there is no long holiday like summer vacation, the number of infections is increasing. Most likely, people growing tired of all the infection prevention measures and underestimating the dangers of the virus, foregoing wearing masks, and gathering in large groups again are the causes of this third wave.

Certainly there are plenty of patients experiencing mild or no symptoms, and the virus might not seem so terrible to many people, but thinking about it from the perspective of health care workers, it really is best to practice proper prevention measures. In hospitals, there are many people who are working hard without complaining, trying not to get infected. When someone with COVID enters a hospital, their hospital room becomes a special private room and other people are not allowed in, meaning that hospitals are not able to treat as many people or earn much income. Hospital workers are exhausted, both physically and mentally. Because hospital income is decreasing, their salaries are also being cut. Even though they are working so hard, to have their salaries cut must be so upsetting for them. On top of that, many people are beginning to discriminate against healthcare workers. It’s a tragic situation.

If many people start acting with only their own self interest mind, society cannot hold together. We should act while keeping the people around us and the people all living in the same society as us in mind. I hope that we can all get through this pandemic together, peacefully and calmly.

今月の文化 2020年 10月 紅葉の見頃

As I wrote in July, the government moved a holiday this year due to the Olympics. Sports-Day was moved to July from October. Therefore, there were no holidays in October this year. I felt a little sad.

This October’s weather has been dark and nice. I really liked it. In late October, we had some sunny days, so it felt like fall had really arrived. However, because of the lack of holidays, not many people were able to travel or enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery this month.


In the middle of October, the news started broadcasting information of changing leaves in every prefecture’s famous leaf viewing spots. This period is called “migoro.” Migoro means the best time to see things, like flowers or fall leaves. You may feel disappointed if you went somewhere far from your home expecting to see beautiful flowers and yet they haven’t bloomed. Migoro information is for those people who don’t want to miss the best time to catch beautiful scenery. You can get this information from most sightseeing location’s websites, news forecasts, and so on. I personally don’t like crowded places, so I haven’t gone to see fall foliage up close, but it’s still nice to just look at them from a distance.

今月の文化 2020年 9月 今立アートフィールド特別展

October is almost here! The weather has been getting cooler in Japan since last week, and it made me feel like autumn has come. Normally, there are a lot of fall events in this season, but the number of events has declined this year. Although many events have been canceled, there are still some small events scheduled.

This year, I went to a local event called “Imadate Art Field Special Exhibition.” This event was held in Imadate in Fukui prefecture. They exhibited art objects made of Japanese paper throughout many places in Imadate.

Imadate is famous for Japanese paper crafts. People worship the goddess of paper, Kawakami Gozen, and hold a big annual festival for her. It is a majestic old fashioned town. The water is clean, the people are nice, and there is lots of nature there. Imadate is a very beautiful place.

For this exhibition, the organizers picked some unique places to show installationst: a huge mansion’s storerooms, an abandoned Japanese paper factory, a refurbished old-style house, etc. I was able to see some scenery and buildings which I usually don’t get to see up close. The event was very unique and interesting. All the art and locations and the demonstrations by professional Japanese paper makers were really intriguing. The best part for me was Otaki Shrine, which I went to last. Otaki Shrine was as majestic as the last time I saw it. It was so inspiring. I noticed some of the trees had been chopped down, but I also saw some new trees had been planted, and that made me relieved. I hope beautiful places like Otaki Shrine remain as they are for a long time.

今月の文化 2020年 8月 熱中症

I talked about how cool this year’s tsuyu was in June, but the temperature went up after July. It’s been over 35 ℃ almost every day in August. COVID-19 infections increased due to summer vacation, but according to the news, more people have died from heat stroke recently than COVID-19.

I saw a picture of a house where two elderly people died. The house was a small, old, wooden house without an AC unit.

Elderly people in Japan are not really used to using AC. When they were young, they just opened the windows and doors and used only a small fan to release heat from their houses. Before electricity, people used ice boxes to keep food cool.

That lifestyle was doable back then, but now temperatures have become dangerously high and it’s dangerous to keep windows and doors open. I think having an AC unit is necessary to survive in this heat.

Everytime I see on the news that elderly people have died due to lack of AC, I really hope that others can get help from their neighbors and family.

今月の文化 2020年 7月 7月の祝日

I talked about the rainy season last month, but it hasn’t ended yet although it’s the end of July. Some people say that the rainy season might continue until August. It has been raining almost every day, and there was a big flood in the Kyushu area. The weather has been really unpredictable and scary.

Normally, there is only one holiday in July, called Sea Day. But this year, a holiday normally in October, called Sports Day, was moved to July because of the Olympics. Originally, the opening ceremonies were scheduled to be held on July 24th.

However, due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics was postponed to next year. Therefore, the government has discussed moving the holiday again next year.

I am impressed by the Olympics. It has the power to move national holidays around. I hope someday we can enjoy the Olympics without worry again.

今月の文化 2020年 6月 梅雨とマスク

June is the rainy season.
The rainy season is known for its rainy, humid, and hot weather everyday. However, due to recent strange weather patterns, we have been having extreme weather, such as sudden huge rainstorms after a long string of sunny days. It causes flooding.

There was a huge disaster caused by rain in China recently. There was a flood in the Kyushu area as well. Many people evacuated to the same places as usual, but this year they suffered difficulties due to COVID-19. People had to wear masks and keep social distances, so they needed to be cautious even after being evacuated.

Summer will start after the rainy season. People say this summer is going to be hot because of the warm winter last year.

I realized after I lived in the US that Japan lacks trees in the cities. In addition, tree branches are cut short to prevent disasters like floods caused by leaves blocking storm drains. It’s hard to find shade on the sidewalks.
I looked at pictures of Tokyo the other day and saw businessmen wearing masks wiping their sweat in the blazing sun surrounded by only buildings. Global warming will affect us a lot more in the future, so we need to start adding greenery to cities.

Japanese Grammar Review