The Daily Manila Shimbun


Spring Festival celebrations in Japan attract appreciation for Chinese culture

January 29, 2017

TOKYO- Chinese Spring Festival, the most important traditional festival for Chinese society, has been celebrated all over Japan, attracting appreciation for Chinese culture among both local people and visitors from all over the world.
The Spring Festival is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Celebrations traditionally run from the evening preceding the first day, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month.
This year, the first day of the Chinese lunar new year falls on Jan. 28, initiating the year of the Rooster, based on the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac assigns an animal to each year of a 12-year cycle, beginning with rat and continuing through ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and finally pig.
On Jan. 28, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Chinatown in Yokohama, capital city of eastern Japan's Kanagawa prefecture, was filled with festival atmosphere. Tens of thousands of visitors came to Yokohama Chinatown, the largest Chinese communities in Japan, to feel the festive atmosphere.
With red lanterns and flags hung high on the Chinese-styled buildings along the streets, the whole area of the Chinatown is adorned in red and gold banners theming happiness, wealth and good luck, and is alive with people from all parts of the world.
There are a series of special events in Yokohama's Chinatown to celebrate the New Year until March started with lion dance.
The "lions" performed Cai Qing, which literally means "picking the greens" in Chinese. With a history of hundreds of years and as a tradition in China during the lunar new year, Cai Qing is a ritual in which lion dancers overcome obstacles to get a bunch of green vegetables which comes with a red packet.
The "lions" danced in front of and inside the shops and restaurants alongside the Chinatown to pray for prosperity and drive away the evil spirits.
The "greens" used to be vegetables hung in or outside shops, but nowadays they are red envelopes within which is a payment to the lion dancers. Cai Qing supposedly brings good luck and fortune to the business and the dancers receive the money in the envelop as payment.
The "lion" collected the envelopes in its mouth and swallowed them down. Firecrackers were set off and the crowd erupted in applause amidst the smoke and merriment.
The event drew lots of visitors and many of them said it's a fun and amazing scene.
"It was very good. We don't know anything like this in England. So it's a privilege to see," Charlotte, a British visitor to Japan told Xinhua.
Another British visitor, Francis, told Xinhua that, "It was very interesting. Some of the movements, like in and out of the shop, different... We are visiting Japan. we realize it is the Chinese New Year and there will be a festival here. We thought we should come and check it out. "
Local people were also fascinated by the performance. "This is my first time to watch the show and I was very surprised. It was very lively and the sound of the firecrackers really surprised me. It was very good, " a Yokohama resident told Xinhua.
Chinese Student of Waseda University, Xiao Yi, told Xinhua that, "This place is filled with festive atmosphere. I come with a bunch of my classmates...I brought my Japanese classmates here to introduce our Chinese culture."
"I like Chinese food the most and I like China very much. Compared with the quietness in European countries, I like Chinese festivals better as they are livelier, " said a Japanese student of Waseda University.
In the town of Hakone, a popular sightseeing spot situated in the southwestern part of Kanagawa prefecture, a Japanese shop adopted the Chinese custom of giving lucky money, an old tradition during the Spring Festival. The shop gave every Chinese customer five yen as lucky money to wish them good fortune, as the pronunciation of five yen in Japanese means fate with good luck.
In central Japan's Nagoya, a three-day celebration for the Spring Festival was carried out earlier this month.
The celebration was held on Hisaya Square in downtown Nagoya, where red lanterns and flags hung high, and people cheered and smiled, creating a festival atmosphere.
A number of Chinese artists gave shows on a spectacular stage set up at one end of the square, including facechanging stunt of Sichuan opera, acrobatics and lion dances.
People also lined up before the dozens of booths around the square which sold traditional Chinese cuisine, including dumplings, candy gourds and others.
A number of exhibitions were also held on the square, including a show featuring photos of Chinese scenery shot by Japanese photographers.
"The three-day festival is expected to attract a total of some 120,000 visitors this year, including overseas Chinese, as well as Japanese citizens and tourists from other countries," said Wang Libao, a member of the executive committee of the Spring Festival celebration.
The celebration has also become a grand event for the local people. "The yearly Spring Festival celebration in Nagoya has helped promoting understanding between Chinese and Japanese people and livening up local economy," said Hideaki Ohmura, Governor of Aichi Prefecture of Japan.
He also said that Aichi prefecture, with Nagoya as its capital, has a rather close relationship with China, with nine of its cities having sister cities in China, and tens of thousands of Chinese living in the prefecture.
"This year marks the 45th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations, and next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan. The two countries now are facing new opportunities for enhancing bilateral ties, " said Cheng Yonghua, Chinese Ambassador to Japan.
"I hope that cultural exchanges such as spring festival celebrations in Japan, will flourish and make new contributions to improving bilateral relations," he added.
Overseas Chinese have been holding Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Nagoya since 2007. The celebration has become an important platform for local people to learn more about Chinese culture and for promoting mutual understanding and cultural exchanges between central Japan and China.  (Xinhua News)