From Mie Guidebook
This is a list of events that one can expect throughout the year in Mie, both job-related as well as culture-related.
Dates given our not exact but our approximate times of the year when one can assume a certain event will take place. Also, if events don't take place every year that should be stated.
School and Work Events - Aug
- JET Group A arrives - August 1st (maybe a few days earlier)
- JET Group B arrives - August 8th (maybe a few days earlier)
- Mie Orientation - Just after mid-August
- Two-day orientation held by the prefecture and senior JETs to provide new JETs with all the info about Mie they need.
- Re-entry Permit Trip - Mid or late August
- First year JETs, with the help of a few elder JETs tagging along, will take a trip to Nagoya to acquire their re-entry visa permit which allows people to leave Japan and then return without having to apply for a new visa.
- Summer Break - All month
- Most of August the teachers and students will be away, save those who are involved with sports and clubs that have to meet over the summer.
Social and Cultural Events - Aug
- Rice Harvest (稲刈り inekari) - Mid August though time can vary quite a bit depending on climate, location, and farmer
- Farmers dig up the rice they've been growing and some townspeople often help out. The rich green of the rice fields is harvested and replaced by a muddy brown that will remain until the following April.
- Nara Obon Lantern Festival - August 14-15
- All the 3000 lanterns at Kasuga Taisha are lit as part of an Obon festival.
- Obon (お盆) - August 15th
- Second-most important holiday in Japan - the day when Japanese people return to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors (living and dead). Sometimes "Obon" is called the "Festival of Lights" because light plays a big part in the Obon symbolism, which is one reason why fireworks are so popular in the summer.
- AJET Orientation Party - Mid August (held the first night of the Mie Orientation)
- Post-orientation party usually held at the Melting Pot in Tsu, which is easily accessible from the location where the Mie Orientation is held. Gets everyone together again and gives the people who couldn't make it to the beach party a chance to meet the new JETs.
School and Work Events - Sep
- School starts - Early September (maybe late August for some schools)
- Kids come back from summer vacation for term 2 of the Japanese school year -- and possibly to a new ALT.
Social and Cultural Events - Sep
- AJET Nagashima Spa Land Trip - Early September
- Big group JET trip to Nagashima Spa Land, one of Japan's best amusement parks right here in Mie.
- Bonfire Noh at Iga-Ueno Castle - Mid to late September
- In honour of the full moon appearing between two pine trees a fire-lit performance of traditional Japanese theater is performed against the impressive backdrop of Iga-Ueno Castle. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time or bought at the gate and in the past have been about 500 yen. A great evening with great atmosphere and there is usually a group game for Karaoke or bowling after.
School and Work Events - Oct
- School Festival (文化祭 Bunka-sai) - early October or late September
- Biggest "festival" of the year at school. Hard to explain exactly - all the different classes do or create something special. There will be a lot of food available, buy tickets in advance and don't bring lunch this day!
Social and Cultural Events - Oct
- Ise Festival (伊勢大祭 Ise Ō-Matsuri) - Weekend in first half of October
- Ise's biggest festival, three days or parades and madness.
- Tsu Festival (津祭 Tsu Matsuri) - Weekend in first half of October
- Tsu's biggest festival.
- Ueno Tenjin Matsuri - October 23-25
- From October 23-25 in Ueno-shi, there is a 400 year old festival featuring a unique parade of floats and dancers led by 100 people dressed as oni.
- AJET Halloween Party - Usually last Sat. in October
- Annual JET Hallween party, often held at Hunky Dory in Matsusaka. Prizes up for grabs.
School and Work Events - Nov
- ALT Planning Meeting - Second half of November
- Known as the "meeting to plan the meeting", this is a required meeting for all ALTs in which some basic plans and decisions regarding the January mid-year seminar will be made. Only a half-day.
Social and Cultural Events - Nov
- Momiji-gari (もみじ狩り) - Throughout November, depends on climate
- The trees change color and lots of people take trips "hunting" for the best-colored trees of the year. Kyoto will be especially crowded.
School and Work Events - Dec
- JLPT (日本語能力試験 Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken) - First sunday in December
- Not a "school or work" event, but studying for it will improve your life in Japan to an untold degree, whether it be school, work, or anything else. Higher levels also offered in July.
Social and Cultural Events - Dec
- Christmas - Dec 25th
- Unlike at home, Christmas is a boyfriend/girlfriend date holiday in Japan - akin to Valentine's Day. Couples buy a each other presents and almost always get a "christmas cake" which will be heavily advertised in the month leading up to Christmas. KFC is also an odd Japanese Christmas tradition, if you want it you have to reserve it in advance.
- "Forget the Year Party" (忘年会 Bōnenkai) - End of December
- Giant drunken party (enkai). Your schools will definitely have one, and if you are a member of any other official or semi-official groups they may have one as well.
School and Work Events - Jan
- ALT Mid-Year Seminar - Mid-January
- Two-day seminar involving at least one speaker and at least four ALT-JTE team presentations on a variety of teaching topics.
Social and Cultural Events - Jan
- New Year's (正月 Shōgatsu) - Jan 1st ~ Jan 4th or so
- The most important holiday of the year in Japan - it is a time for Japanese people to spend time with their families. Christmas and New Year's kind of have the reverse significance of what they have at home. Dec 29th - Jan 3rd are considered national holidays, and so all government workers (that includes JETs) get these days off without having to take nenkyu.
- There are innumerable family traditions that take place within the homes of Japanese families and there will also be things going on in every town and city in Japan. In particular, Ise sees a huge amount of people come for Ise Grand Shrine.
- AJET Ski Trip - Usually the 3-day weekend in the first half of January
- Mie AJET organizes a ski trip. Past groups have often gone to Nagano.
School and Work Events - Feb
Social and Cultural Events - Feb
- Setsubun (節分) - Feb 3rd
- Japanese holiday with a lot of goofy but fun traditions like throwing beans and eating huge sushi rolls.
- Ya-Ya Festival (やや祭り) - Early February
- Owase's biggest festival. Involves drunken street brawling and naked men.
- Valentine's Day - Feb 14th
- Day when male ALTs may get surprise chocolates from female teachers - a ridiculous Japanese "tradition" that bears little resemblance to Valentine's Day at home.
- AJET Valentine's Ball - Mid-Feb
- Yearly party in honor of Valentine's Day.
School and Work Events - Mar
- Graduation (卒業式 Sotsugyō shiki) - Mar 1st (for high school), around second week of March (for others)
- Time to say goodbye to some of your students. Make sure to wear a suit. Be prepared to clap for a long time and witness a bucket full of tears from the students.
Social and Cultural Events - Mar
- Ise Saint Patrick's Day Parade - Saturday in mid March
- Parading around and getting drunk in the name of cultural heritage. This event in Ise is rather unique in that it's a little-recognized foreign event properly observed in small-town Japan.
- White Day - Mar 14th
- Chance for females to receive chocolate or gifts in return for any they generously gave on Valentine's Day a month earlier. Most guys are too lazy to buy girls they like anything and rationalize it by decrying White Day as "just a commercial holiday"
- "Penis Festival" (豊年祭 hōnen-sai) - Mar 15th
- Actually a fertility festival, but if you go you'll see why the nickname came about. Not in Mie, held in Komaki in Aichi Prefecture, but a popular event for those in Mie nonetheless.
- Osaka Basho - Mid March
- One of the six big yearly tournaments, located at Osaka prefectural gymnasium.
School and Work Events - Apr
- The Big Switch (人事移動 jinji idō) - Apr 1st
- Not an April Fool's Joke - the fiscal/school year in Japan officially starts on April 1st and so all the staff changes, shifts, and promotions take effect that day. Most people will have new desks and be in charge of new things. Some people will be transferred to wholly new places and be replaced by other people in the same situation. No matter where you work you can expect new faces on April 1st.
- Entrance Ceremony (入学式 Nyūgaku shiki) - Around Apr 7th, changes year to year
- Nervous new students are given the gauntlet and a motivational talking-to by the principal. Make sure to wear a suit.
- Field trip (遠足 ensoku) - Typically late April, could be early May
- Students get to go somewhere. Amusement parks, aquariums, and historical sites are popular - Nagashima Spa Land is a very common destination within Mie. ALTs may be allowed to tag along.
Social and Cultural Events - Apr
- Hanami (花見) - First two weeks of April (give or take a little each year)
- April is when the gorgeous cherry blossom trees bloom and Japanese people have a past-time of sitting under the blooming sakura and having food and drink. Merriment ensues. Sitting under the sakura for awhile is generally a great way to feel better about pretty much everything. Most cities have a park where there's a concentration or line of cherry blossom trees, check the guide.
- Rice-planting - Beginning of April (give or take big time, depends on climate and farmer)
- You will see the rice fields get flooded and soon the little green ricelings will be planted and you can watch them grow over the next few months.
- Ise Sumo - Very beginning of April (may be the very end of March some years)
- Every year the grand masters of sumo must pay respects at Ise Grand Shrine and after wards there is a tournament. A great chance to see all the heroes up close! It's possible to converse with wrestlers, take pictures, and even get autographs as this is a regional "just for fun" tournament so they are more relaxed and willing to mingle with the crowd.
School and Work Events - May
- Golden Week - First week of May
- Not usually a full "week", but a string of days off work - usually three in a row. One of the most expensive times of the year to fly anywhere in Japan. Hotels and trains book up very quickly as well.
Social and Cultural Events - May
- Uma-age Festival (馬揚げ祭) - First week of May
- Ridiculously dangerous festival in Kuwana in which someone tries to ride a horse up a huge incline where the horse has to be "lifted" up. Injuries occur every year.
School and Work Events - Jun
- Sports Day (体育祭 Tai'iku-sai) - Sometime in June, though depending on the school could be a different month
- Called "sports day", but really more like "track and field" day. Students dress up in special class-designed shirts and try and beat the other classes in track and field competition with both serious and joke events.
Social and Cultural Events - Jun
- Saiō Festival (斎王まつり Saiō Matsuri) - First weekend in June
- Meiwa's main festival of the year. Two-day event involving lots of Heian-era (1000-year-old) kimono.
School and Work Events - Jul
- Summer vacation starts - Late July
- School breaks for the summer, with some JETs returning and others leaving
Social and Cultural Events - Jul
- Miyagawa Fireworks (宮川花火大会 Miyagawa Hanabi Taikai) - Mid-July
- Major fireworks show in Ise along the Miya River
- Nagoya Basho - Mid-July
- One of the six major sumo tournaments, held in Nagoya every July.
- Osaka Tenjin Matsuri - July 24-25
- One of the three great festivals of Japan, has a land parade, a boat parade, and fireworks.