Girl’s Festival : Hina-Matsuri/ Momo-no-Sekku（ 雛祭り/ 桃の節句 ）
Hina-Matsuri ( ひな祭り) also known as Girl's Festival or Girls' Day is celebrated each year on the March 3.
This is a day when families pray for the growth, happiness and prosperity of the young girls. Japanese families celebrate by preparing a special meal of sushi, Chirashi-zushi (ちらし寿司) served along with a light clam soup, Hamaguri-no-Ushiojiru（はまぐりの潮汁) and a white, sweet sake , Shirozake（白酒 ).
It is custom to display traditional ornamental dolls called Ohina-sama（おひなさま) in their homes .
It is said that these dolls ward off evil spirits, calamity and disease. They are often decorated together with delicate peach blossoms and placed on tiered platforms (often a set of dolls representing the emperor, empress, attendants, and musicians in ancient court dress) .
Families generally start to display the dolls in February and take them down immediately after the festival. Superstition says that leaving the dolls past March 4 will result in a late marriage for the daughter.
There are many types of dolls.
Boy's Festival : Tango-no-Sekku（端午の節句）
The Boy's Festival: Kodomo-no-Hi （こどもの日）is held on the 5th of May, a national holiday.
It is called Tango-no-Sekku（端午の節句）. This day is one of five Sekku（五節句）. The word, Tan（端）means beginning, then Tango（端午）means the first day of Go（午:Uma）of the month.
In China, May is the month in which people have to clean their mind and body and they must be careful about what they say and stay at home. When the numbers are doubled, for example, fifth of the fifth, is a special day. during this time, on occasion, sagebrush and calamus is used to cleanse the body.
In Japan, young girls who plant the rice fields, stay home, cleanse their bodies and give welcome to the God of rice fields before they plant rice.
Tango-no-Sekku used to be a girl's festival in the past.
Later, Chinese ideas and Japanese customs were mixed, and the festival changed.
The Japanese word, calamus:Shōbu（菖蒲） has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word, Shōbu（尚武）, the combination of these words changed the meaning of the festival in the Samurai world.
The Chinese word Shōbu（尚武）means to place a special emphasis on martial arts and bravery.
In the Edo period, the occasion, Tango-no-Sekku became a boy's festival, and people decorated Kabuto（兜）:helmets, Kacchu（甲冑）:armors and Musha-Ningyō（武者人形）: Samurai dolls which are based on historical heroes and the characters of fairy stories.
Koi-Nobori （鯉のぼり）used to be one of the implements of war, Hukinagasi（吹き流し）: a streamer, later took on a legend in which a carp went up a waterfall and finally became a dragon. Parents pray for their sons with the hope of them growing up to be strong and cheerful from their birth.
Japanese people used to put calamus plants and sagebrush into the eaves, to take a bath with calamus plants, Shōbu-Yu（菖蒲湯）and to drink calamus alcoholic drink, Shōbu-Zake（菖蒲酒）. And we enjoy eating Chimaki（粽）and Kashiwa-mochi（柏餅） to get rid of evil spirits and disasters.
Calamus and sagebrush were often used for getting rid of evils spirits and disasters. Calamus has a sweet and refreshing smell and the sharp tip has is like a sword piercing evil spirits. Shōbu-Zake, the calamus alcoholic drink was used for a festival in the imperial house in the Heian period, it came from a Chinese festval.
Shōbu-Zake is made by soaking calamus plants in sake or mixing the root of calamus powder into it. People enjoy it on the 5th of May.
Chimaki is a steamed rice cake which is made of rice wrapped in bamboo grass or reed leaves. Kashiwa-mochi is a rice cake which is made of rice powder and sweet red bean paste or sweet miso paste, folded and double wrapped in oak leaves.
In modern times, during this festival season, the boy's families put up a pole and fly Koi-Nobori（鯉のぼり）and enjoy to decorative Kabuto（兜）, Kacchū（甲冑）and Musha-Ningyō（武者人形）.
Their parents hope their sons will grow up to be strong and cheerful, like Samurai.
Hot springs (Onsen) with Calamus (Shōbu-Yu) for bathing.
Calamus alcohol ( Shōbu-Zake) served in bamboo cups.
Enjoying the new green tea of the season.
The 1st day of May in the year, is called Hachijū-Hachiya（八十八夜）,
It is the count of 88th days from the first day of spring, Risshun（立春）.
At around this time, Japanese people are picking tea, these are new shoots ready for collection.
In Japan, there is a song" Chatsumi Uta（茶摘み歌）", it describes the picking of shoots by girls in kimonos ( left photo ) during this season.
It has been said that tea is a panacea for curing and a medicine for relaxing and getting younger. The leaves which are picked during the Hachijū-Hachiya makes good tea for longevity and auspiciousness.
There are three periods in Japan for picking new green tea leaves.
First of all are in this season, Hachijū-Hachiya, second are the leaves in around July and last of all are the leaves in around the middle of July to the end of August.
Tea leaves grow in places with a mild climate.
In Japan, the most famous place as a producer of tea, is Shizuoka prefecture, this tea is called: Yabikita-cha（やぶきた茶）, Makinohara-cha（牧之原茶）, Kawane-cha（川根茶）.
And second place is Kagoshima prefecture, it is called Chiran-cha（知覧茶）. Third place is Ise-cha（伊勢茶） in Mie prefecture, Ujicha（宇治茶） in Kyoto and Yame-cha（山根茶） in Hukuoka prefecture.
And other popular teas are Sayama-cha（狭山茶） in Saitama prefecture and Ureshino-cha（嬉野茶） in Saga prefecture and so on.
In this season, the people who like tea, can't wait to get new green tea.
After this day, Hachijū-Hachiya（八十八夜）, lots of new green tea is shipped from many parts of Japan.
I recommend you to try the leaves in this season, because it has a fresh flavor and they are the first leaves in the year.
Let's enjoy the new green tea of this season!
And if you like sweets, please enjoy green tea with Japanese sweets.
This festival is held on the 7th of July.
Children decorate colorful ornaments and paper, called tanzaku（短冊） on which is written their hopes and dreams. They are hung on the leaves of bamboo.
They hope, for example, for the health of their family, for their future job, success in sport or study.
This event is based on a Chinese legend of one couple, Orihime/Syokujo（織姫/織女） and Hikoboshi/Kengyū（彦星/牽牛）. They are cursed by her father, Emperor of the universe, so that they can only meet once a year, July 7th, in the Milky Way.
This festival is also based on a Chinese event, Kikkōten（乞巧奠）, which is held for women, they pray on the day for the success of their work, art and so on.
Besides Japanese ancient customs, young girls will also cleanse their bodies and weave a kimono for the God of the rice field, so that he might brings good harvest. Because famers are often endangered during this season by typhoons and harmful insects preventing the pollination of rice flowers.
In Japan, these events and customs were combined and the Tanabata festival was created.
Children look up at the dark sky at night, and they always hope Orihime and Hikoboshi can meet on the Milky Way on this day.