Living in Japan’s traditions: Sagicho
A stay in Japan is full of rich cultural experiences. As a foreign Japanese language student, your teachers may explain several of the seasonal events during classes. If you are planning to work in Japan, your colleagues may introduce you to some of the local customs as well. If traveling around the country alone, opportunities shall appear to know more about the Japanese culture. Also, at the Apartment, Share House and Guest House accommodation units of SAKURA HOUSE, your neighbors, housemates or roommates may share some experiences you never knew of. Each month has a unique array of traditional events and customs to discover, and one that is usually unknown by foreigners is the “sagicho” (左義長), or burning of the New Years gate decorations.
Also known as “dondoyaki”, “onihitaki” and “sainokami”, amongst other names, this event takes place on the 15th of January and consists of burning several of the typical decorations related to the beginning of the new year. Some of these are the “shimenawa” (consecrated ropes usually seen in shrines but also decorating house entrances during new years eve), “kadomatsu” (traditional bamboo decoration of New Year placed in front of homes to welcome ancestral spirits or kami) and “kakihajime” (first written calligraphy piece of the year), and it is done as a way to bid farewell to the favorable gods that have come to visit each household.
“Shimenawa” rope at a shrine entrance.
When lighting this fire it is common to eat “mochi” rice cakes, and its ball shaped “dango”, toasted by its flames as it is believed to allow one to have sound health throughout the year. Also, If the flames rise high when throwing in the “kakihajime” caligraphy writtings, it is said that the calligraphy skills of the writer will be improved.
One interesting fact is that some lucky charms are also burned in the “sagicho” fire, but the famous daruma dolls (shown in the picture above), commonly used to fulfill wishes by gradually painting each eye on it, are not burned since doing so is believed to cause blindness.
From all the events that take place at the beginning of the New Year, this is one that fits perfectly with the winter season since the large fire provide good amount of heat to combat the common chilly weather. Likewise, if you are looking forward to starting your new life in Japan at the beginning of the new year or anytime thereafter, you can always count with the warmth and friendliness of our experienced team at SAKURA HOUSE to help you find the most suitable Apartment, Share House, Guest House or Vacation Rental for your needs in Tokyo or Kyoto. Click the button below and lets begin planning your stay in Japan.