This is a 2016 calendar of food-related days in Japan in the form of a convenient pdf format to reference throughout the year. It’s a two-page document to be printed on U.S. letter-size paper. Pin the calendar on a refrigerator and don’t miss the dates!
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Important: Downloading Instruction
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When coming back to Japanese Kitchen site, download the pdf by clicking the link “2016 Japanese Calendar of Dates and Food.”
In Japan, certain dates in the calendar year are associated with food. It’s somewhat similar to the United States custom to have turkey, cranberries, and applesauce on Thanksgiving, but the Japanese do not commemorate specific past events by eating certain food on these days.
In many cases, we don’t know why we eat certain foods on particular dates or even when our customs first started. But even though the origin and reasons of such customs have been lost to history, the Japanese retain and repeat the same food-centered rituals every year.
According to Kunio Yanagida, the father of Japanese native folkloristics, the idea of hare and ke (or kegare) is buried deep within the Japanese psyche. The Japanese believe in kegare, which roughly translates to a natural accumulation of intangible dust on people. Even though kegare is not connected to the western idea of “sin,” we have to cleanse ourselves by observing special days of hare.
Those special days of hare are unusual, memorable, and different from routine everyday life. We often wear special clothes and eat special food on those days. The Japanese have placed such special days a few times a year, so that we may periodically cleanse ourselves.
Japan followed the lunar calendar in the past, but since the government switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1873, the Japanese observe some of these dates following the Gregorian calendar.
However, there are some discrepancies. For instance, New Year was supposed to start in the early spring of the lunar year (usually around the middle of February), but in the Gregorian calendar New Year’s day is still in midwinter. We use a New Year’s greeting that suggests early spring, but early spring is actually a couple of months away.