Japan in September
September 1: Disaster Prevention Day
On this day in 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake took place, hitting Tokyo, Yokohama and surrounding areas. It measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and some 140,000 people died as a result of the quake, many in fires that broke out during and after the quake itself.
The day was established, then, to remind people to be prepared for any disaster. Japan is a country with many earthquakes each year, most of which are very minor but some of which are not. On January 17, 1995, for example, Kobe was hit by an earthquake that claimed more than 5,500 lives.
Earthquakes are not the only potential disaster to worry about, either, as Japan has typhoons (basically the same as a hurricane in Western countries), and these can also pose a danger to people.
Emergency drills are organized by local governments during this day and even at schools emergency drills are carried out.
September 9: Chrysanthemum Festival
The reason that a day is set for the chrysanthemum is that the flower has 16 petals and it is the imperial crest. Hundreds of species of the flower are put on display and lifelike clay figures are dressed in robes made of chrysanthemums. These figures are then arranged in various historical and legendary scenes.
September 15: Respect for the Aged day
One of the things that people of Japan have done for almost its entire history is to have respect for the aged. This is decreasing somewhat now as families don't necessarily live together in large groups anymore.
This is also one of the newer holidays, going back only to 1966 when it was declared a national holiday although observances had been held from 1951 on.
In Japan there are people who are referred to as "living treasures", artists and craftsmen who are particularly skilled at their trade and particularly old. National Geographic did a wonderful program on this some time ago, showing one man who made pots from clay, another who made paper, a woman who was an expert weaver and other people.
Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. In 1995 that was some 76.36 years for men and 82.84 years for women.
September 23: Autumnal Equinox Day
This is a day to mark the changing of the seasons and is another day to pay respects to one's ancestors. From this day on days begin getting shorter.
September 20-30: Higan
Higan traditionally refers to the period of time just around the autumnal equinox (and also the vernal equinox.)
During this time the family graves are again visited and cleaned with incense and prayers being offered. One particular offering is ohagi which is made with glutinous rice covered with adzuki-bean paste or soybean flour.
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