There are many Japanese traditions involved in their festivals and I often wondered about them during my time in Japan. The deep sense of tradition is one of the many things I loved. It held the society together as one. But I didn’t understand all of them, and although I asked a plethora of ‘foreigner’ questions to my friends and colleagues, there were so many that I didn’t ask…
Tuttle Publishing sent us the book, Japanese Traditions: Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms and Matsuri: A Year of Seasonal Japanese Festivities, written by Setsu Broderick and Willamarie Moore. And now I’m learning the answers to many of those questions I had so long ago! Of course, the children are also enjoying this book and the tales I’ve been telling them about my time there, which is brought back to life through the illustrations.
There are so many festivals in Japan, from small local ones to big national festivals. During my time living in Japan I attended as many as I could, but didn’t even scratch the surface of them. From New Year’s to Hinamatsuri, to the O-Bon festival, you’ll find them in this book.
As we read this book, cuddled up on rainy afternoons, we were taken month by month through the year and the major festival(s) that took place during that month or season. The text is in small blocks, but there’s a LOT of information contained within the pages of this beautiful hard-cover book.
For each month there’s a 2-page spread with illustrations by Setsu Broderick. The illustrations all contain cats as the characters, which makes the story kawaii (cute) but the antics and activities the cats get up to are all factual. By using cute pictures with the more factual text, it means that this book will appeal to a wider audience.
Turn the page and you’ll find more information about specific parts of a festival. You might learn about the difference between a formal kimono and a summer yukata, toys that Japanese children play with, such as Kendama or Kamifusen, or learn to make an origami samuri helmet.
In the first origami kit Tuttle’s sent us, My First Origami Kit there are directions to make Kamifusen (paper balloons) so we made a few and the children had fun playing with them.
Tristan and Kallista have seen many of the items I brought back with me from Japan, and now they (and I) can better understand the meaning behind them. Some I bought simply because they were beautiful, and others because I found them interesting.
On every big trip I’ve taken since I’ve been in Japan I’ve always made sure to have my Safety Travel O-mamori (good luck charm) with me.
We are proud members of the Japan Society of Northern Ireland, and the children love to go to the events each year. I’ve written about the hanamatsuri, summer matsuri (where I learned the O-Bon dance), and other events. Tristan and Kallista loved finding pictures in this book that were familiar to them: Kakigori (shaved ice), and the carp streamers used to celebrate Boy’s Day on May 5th.
And of course they spent extra time on the page with Japanese food and found things that they have enjoyed, and also asked me to make other items that they haven’t yet tried. This is where our new recipes from My Japanese Table are going to come in handy!
At the end of the book are extra things to go back into each month to look for. This gives children a new look into the illustrations to attend to the details, and find things they’d missed. It makes it more like a little game for the kids.
Japanese Traditions is a wonderful resource for any home or school to have. It will teach children about traditions they may not know, and the illustrations are so rich in additional information this book could be used to start conversations between children and/or children and adults to learn more about each other if one is from Japan.
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If you’re interested in purchasing this book or other Japanese items found in it, here are some Amazon links (affiliate) for you: