For the safety of our staff and volunteers, we will not offer in-person school visits for the remainder of 2020. Please contact us about setting up a virtual Japan in the Schools visit or activity, and take advantage of these resources that children and adults can access from home.

In September, the days get shorter and the nights gets longer. The ancient name “Nagatsuki” came from Nagayotsuki which means the month of long nights.

Choyo no Sekku, September 9th
This is one of five sekku celebrations. Sekku are seasonal ceremonies which were traditionally held in the Imperial Court. They are January 7(Nanakusa), March 3(Jomi, Girl’s Day), May 5(Tango, Boy’s Day), July 7(Tanabata), and September 9(Choyo). It was believed the “yang” power gets too strong on days the odd (yang) numbers is the same on the month and the date. It is considered inauspicious, so to counter the danger, sekku events were celebrated. Nine is the strongest yang number in yin-yang concept. Choyo no sekku is the double ninth, so it is the most powerful. Chrysanthemum was used as an herb for longevity. To avert bad luck and ward off evil spirits, chrysanthemum flowers were soaked in water or sake and drunk for health and longevity. They used wads of silk to catch the flowers’ dew and the wad was used to wipe the body or face to keep them young. Because of that tradition, it is also called Chrysanthemum Sekku.

Keirou no hi (Respect for the Aged Day)
This is a fairly new national holiday designated in 1966 to honor the elderly. It was celebrated on September 15 until 2003. It is changed to the third Monday of September to make a long weekend. People spend the day with grandparents, give gifts, etc.

Otsukimi, Moon Viewing

Chushu no Meigetsu” The beautiful moon in mid autumn. The autumn harvest moon is celebrated on 15th night of 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is called Jugoya (15th night). On the solar calendar, it changes every year and usually falls in mid-September to early October. This year, it will be on October 1st.

People enjoy the beauty of the moon and wish for a good harvest and healthy life by putting offerings like dango (round mochi-like rice cake), chestnuts, taro, and sweet potatoes. Pampass grass was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect the harvest. It also looks like mature rice plants, which are not quite ready at the time of Jugoya, so they put pampass grass in place of rice.

Rabbit in the moon

What do you see in the moon? In Japan, we say a rabbit is pounding mochi in the moon. See the pattern of the dark area? Do you see a rabbit? In different countries, people see different things in the moon, a lady reading a book, a lion, a crab etc.

Origami: Rabbits
Make an easy rabbit face. If you feel it is too easy, challenge yourself with the balloon rabbit. Both diagrams are from OrigamiClub.com.

Radio Exercise: ラジオ体操

Do you know millions of Japanese participate in this morning exercise which has 90 years of history? It's simple -you should try it! To watch in English, check the links!  

                                                                         Exercise 1, Exercise 2

September - 9月 or 長月

In September, the days get shorter and the nights gets longer. The ancient name “Nagatsuki” came from Nagayotsuki which means the month of long nights.

Choyo no Sekku, September 9th
This is one of five sekku celebrations. Sekku are seasonal ceremonies which were traditionally held in the Imperial Court. They are January 7(Nanakusa), March 3(Jomi, Girl’s Day), May 5(Tango, Boy’s Day), July 7(Tanabata), and September 9(Choyo). It was believed the “yang” power gets too strong on days the odd (yang) numbers is the same on the month and the date. It is considered inauspicious, so to counter the danger, sekku events were celebrated. Nine is the strongest yang number in yin-yang concept. Choyo no sekku is the double ninth, so it is the most powerful. Chrysanthemum was used as an herb for longevity. To avert bad luck and ward off evil spirits, chrysanthemum flowers were soaked in water or sake and drunk for health and longevity. They used wads of silk to catch the flowers’ dew and the wad was used to wipe the body or face to keep them young. Because of that tradition, it is also called Chrysanthemum Sekku.

Keirou no hi (Respect for the Aged Day)
This is a fairly new national holiday designated in 1966 to honor the elderly. It was celebrated on September 15 until 2003. It is changed to the third Monday of September to make a long weekend. People spend the day with grandparents, give gifts, etc.

Otsukimi, Moon Viewing

Chushu no Meigetsu” The beautiful moon in mid autumn. The autumn harvest moon is celebrated on 15th night of 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is called Jugoya (15th night). On the solar calendar, it changes every year and usually falls in mid-September to early October. This year, it will be on October 1st.

People enjoy the beauty of the moon and wish for a good harvest and healthy life by putting offerings like dango (round mochi-like rice cake), chestnuts, taro, and sweet potatoes. Pampass grass was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect the harvest. It also looks like mature rice plants, which are not quite ready at the time of Jugoya, so they put pampass grass in place of rice.

Rabbit in the moon

What do you see in the moon? In Japan, we say a rabbit is pounding mochi in the moon. See the pattern of the dark area? Do you see a rabbit? In different countries, people see different things in the moon, a lady reading a book, a lion, a crab etc.

Origami: Rabbits
Make an easy rabbit face. If you feel it is too easy, challenge yourself with the balloon rabbit. Both diagrams are from OrigamiClub.com.

August - 8月 or 葉月


August is the hottest month of summer in Japan, but in the old calendar, which is about a month ahead of the Gregorian calendar adopted in the Meiji era, it was already autumn. The old name for August is Hazuki. “Ha” means leaves. It meant the month when the leaves change colors and fall off the trees.

Obon, August 13-15

Obon is the Japanese Buddhist Festival to celebrate the spirits of one’s ancestors. Their spirits come home on August 13th and go back on the 15th. Some parts of Japan, like Tokyo, follow the new calendar and celebrate it in July, but most of Japan celebrates it in August.


Cucumber horses and eggplant oxen are the traditional decorations. It is said that the spirits ride the horses to come home and go back on the eggplant oxen. To welcome spirits and see them off safely, ogara, stems of the hemp plant, are burnt in an earthenware plate at the front door steps. Offerings are set up on the altar for spirits.

Obon is also a time for family reunions. This is the busiest travel time in Japan. People travel to visit their hometowns to see family and visit ancestors’ graves. Villages and towns often have festivals during Obon. Bon Odori dances and hanabi taikai (fireworks displays) are the most popular. It is a fun time for adults and children, and the whole family can enjoy festival games and food stands. Unfortunately, the festivals are mostly canceled because of COVID 19, so this year most people will stay home during the Obon holidays.

Yukata and Jimbei


Yukata is a cotton casual kimono for summer. People wear them at the festivals, especially at Bon Odori. Everyone can join and dance. Dancers often wear yukata with the same pattern, like uniforms, for Bon Odori. Jimbei are casual kimono-style tops and pants that are also worn at festivals and in the summer.

Japan enjoys a lot of seasonal food. Here are a couple of summer favorites.

Somen Nagashi: You catch flowing somen noodles coming down in the bamboo gutter with hashi (chopsticks) to eat it.

You can also enjoy it at home with these fun machines.

Kakigori(かき氷): Japanese style shaved ice
Shaved ice is a favorite summertime sweet. The ice is shaved very finely and flavored with all kinds of syrup, anko(sweet azuki bean paste), and other toppings.

You can buy a kakigori maker and make it at home too. It is a lot of fun.


Origami: Paper crane
This is probably the most known origami model in the world. The crane is an auspicious bird in Japan. The legend says it lives for a thousand years. It is a symbol of longevity. This traditional origami model has been folded for hundreds of years. There are many origami paper crane tutorials online. This is an easy one to follow. It is challenging, but worth a try.

Senbazuru: Thousand paper cranes

In 1945, the USA dropped two atomic bombs on two cities in Japan which killed 129,000-226,000 people, mostly civilians. These are the only uses of nuclear weapons in armed conflicts. The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. This year is the 75th year since the bombs were dropped.

The story of “One Thousand Cranes” became famous to the world by the book called, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr. The book is based on the true story of a girl called Sadako Sasaki.

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She developed leukemia when she was 11 years old. She started to fold one thousand cranes wishing for better health, but she died at age 12. After her death, Sasaki's friends and schoolmates collected donations from all over Japan to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb.

In 1958, a statue of Sasaki holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Strings of a thousand cranes were sent from all over the world, surrounding the monument. The story of Sadako has come to symbolize the hope that no child will ever again be killed by an atomic bomb. At the bottom of this statue, there is a plaque that reads "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."

To wish for eternal peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons, people fold one thousand cranes and send them to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are displayed at the peace memorials in both cities.

July - 7月 or 文月

July in Japan is the beginning of summer. After the rainy season, it gets hot. Japanese school does not startsummer vacation until July 22, Marine Day, which is the day the beaches open. The old name of the month is fuzuki or fumizuki, which means the month of literacy.

Tanabata 七夕 Star Festival

The seventh day of the seventh month is the Tanabata festival, also called the star festival. Tanabata is the biggest festival in July.

The festival originated in China, where women wished that their weaving and sewing skills would improve with needles with five color strings.

In Japan, it was combined with the original Japanese custom, and became an official court event in the Heian Period. By the Edo period, ordinary people started celebrating the festival by putting bamboo trees on the roof with paper decorations.

Nowadays, people write a wish on long pieces of paper and hang them on to the bamboo branches along with other paper decorations. Some cities like Sendai are famous for celebrating this festival with elaborate decorations.

The story of the two stars is a love story. Orihime, a weaver (Vega) who is a daughter of the emperor of the sky, and Hikoboshi, a cow herder (Altair), were in love and got married, but they were so happy together, they forgot about their work. The emperor became enraged and separated them on each side of the milky way. They were only allowed to meet once in a year on the seventh night of the seventh month. Watch the Tanabata story video.

How to make Tanabata decorations:

Fish netChainnullLantern

Tanzaku

Cut origami or construction colored paper in a rectangle big enough to write your wish. Punch a hole on top and use string to tie them on bamboo branches.

Summer Vacation(夏休み, natsu yasumi)

The Japanese school year starts in April and ends in March. The summer vacation is usually from July 21 until August 31. Because it is in the middle of the school year, children get homework and projects they have to work on during the vacation.

Here is an easy project often given to elementary school students. Grow a plant from a seed, like a sunflower or morning glory, and keep a plant journal to see how the plant grows every day.

Things you need:

  • Flower seeds
  • Growing container (like a paper cup, empty can, or plastic berry container)
  • Potting soil

Put soil in your container, plant a seed, water and watch it grow. If you want to try something different, cut a cherry tomato in half and plant it.

Enjoy Your Summer!

Japan in the Schools

The Japan in the Schools (JIS) program, started in 1997, is a unique program that brings Japanese education into classrooms in Western PA. A wide variety of topics are covered in visits to local schools. Some topics include Japan today, Japanese history, language, culture, and origami. Download the curriculum flyer[PDF] for more information.

Volunteers of the JIS program respond to outreach requests from elementary, middle, and secondary schools, libraries,and other community partners. Authentic Japanese materials are used as teaching aids. This unique experience broadens a student's view of the world and the cultures in it.  

Request a visit!

Requesting a school visit is easy! Fill out this simple request form and Katsuko Shellhammer will coordinate the details of the visit.


Volunteer for the JIS!

Volunteers are the most essential part of the JIS. Without the help of dedicated and passionate volunteers, this program would not exist. All ages and nationalities are welcomed. The only requirement is a passion for Japan.  Sign up today!





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