fujigif

Riding on the heels of Setsubun, a day when Japanese people playfully admonish the demons in their houses (no anti-demon spray necessary; it turns out that most Japanese demons quickly flee the house if you throw beans at them), you probably think all the fun for February is gone. Cold, lonely, and demonless, you haven’t left your heated kotatsu table in days. But no worries! February still holds an enormous amount of fun, with plenty of unofficial holidays to warm up for. There’s Manga Day, Bra Day, Cat Day and Mount Fuji Day just ahead! Discover the story behind ‘You idiot!’ Day and the origin of Japan’s postal code symbol revealed on the annual Postal “T” Day. There’s even a day dedicated to Seaweed, Kabuki and Japanese surnames too. And just when you thought the wacky Japanese couldn’t come up with anything more bizarre, we’ll tell you about Listen to the Angels Whisper Day in Hokkaido.

We present you with 10 amazing February celebratory days in Japan that you won’t want to miss.

Ok, let’s jump into February!

  • Feb 6: Seaweed Day 海苔の日

onigiriFlickr (Joey)

Cuddle a rice ball, French-kiss your nori–it’s national Seaweed Day, a day to love and to cherish, to honor and devour this quintessentially Japanese marine vegetable. Whether its designer sushi seaweed crafted into beautiful designs, the making of a seaweed boat or just eating a sheet of the humble weed hugging a rice ball, this is the day to show our love for this incredibly versatile and nutritious food.

Feb. 8: Postal T Day 〒マークの日

postal mark
Wikimedia

If you’ve ever wondered where Japan got the funky t-shaped icon of the post office, you can now consider yourself unbefuddled! The symbol above, officially known by the trendy, sophisticated name “t-mark” (テマーク), is apparently the result of the katakana テイ tei from the word “communication,” or teishin, and the character 丁chou/tei used in Japanese addresses. Rumor has it that it was actually a typo, giving readers and editors alike the first time in their lives to rejoice and say, “Thank god for typos!” Incidentally, the way to type the t-mark on a Japanese key board is to type ゆうびん yuubin in hiragana script and rather than choosing the kanji 郵便 from the drop-down menu, look for and choose the 〒 mark instead. But you’ve probably noticed one very un-Japanese thing about the “t-mark.” It’s definitely not cute enough. That’s why sometimes you’ll see the symbol given a bit of cutification–with a smiling face: 〠 To type this mark, type in ゆうびん again in hiragana, but when the drop-down menu appears, scroll down to and choose the smiling t-mark. You can also choose a post office building icon from the same menu: 🏣 .

Feb. 9: Manga Day 漫画の日

▼The Tezuka Osamu museum

museumWikimedia (MASA)

This is the anniversary of the death of the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, who died in 1989 at age 60. Catch up on your manga reading today!

Feb. 12: Brassiere Day ブラジャーの日

Soutien_des_seine_par_une_brassiere copyWikipedia (habett)

Whether the invention of the brassiere is actually something to celebrate or not is debatable–surely many women would rather just let them swing freely? But this day, brought to you by the Japan Body Fashion Association, commemorates the invention by an American woman in 1913. The unlikely contraption, a mere handkerchief tied with a ribbon (ouch!), was brought to Japan after WWII and was first sold by Wacoal Corporation, a lingerie company in Kyoto, who reportedly spends around six months designing every one of their bras (well, it sure doesn’t feel like they do). While I understand there are good reasons for women to wear the breast muzzles, such as the chance to strap on one of those amazing Triumph Japan concept bras (anyone for combining chopsticks and cleavage?), there are plenty of reasons to do away with them as well. Comfort, for one. Straps for another. When I first came to Japan in 1994, you’d sometimes see old ladies (and I mean really old ladies) sitting on the engawa or walking around their neighborhoods bare-breasted. I aspire to this in my old age.

Feb. 13: Surname Day 苗字制定記念日

mailboxFlickr (Michael Coghlan)

On this day in 1875, the Meiji government declared to the common people of Japan: You shall have surnames! Previously, only nobles and samurai possessed such monikers, so one can only imagine the confusion that ensued: Where does one get a surname? What about the kanji? Is this is just a ploy to tax us? The adopting of surnames was slow, (especially by the elderly, who probably said the same thing they do about cellphones–I never had one before, why would I need one now?) but in the end prevailed. There was a bit of chaos, however, as people vied for reputable, lucky-in-business surnames that were also familiar and easy to implement, hence the abundance of Suzukis, Satos and Saitos. You can now probably answer the question: On a small island of 570 people, 92 are named Amano, but why?

 Feb. 17: Listen to the Angels Whisper Day 天使の囁き記念日

snow crystalsFlickr (Hiroyuki Takeda)

This day is celebrated in Hokkaido, and refers to “diamond dust,” a rare sparkling phenomenon that happens when the temperature dips to minus 15 degrees Celsius. At such temperatures, it is so cold that moisture in the air crystallizes, falling to the ground like dust (or perhaps, cocaine). While all over Japan snow formations can be very entertaining, only the Polar regions such as Antarctica and the Arctic, and Hokkaido’s Furano and Asahikawa are well-known for displaying this particular natural wonder. In 1994 people of the village of Horokanai designated this day to gather and observe the dust–presumably while wearing North Face eider-down jackets and heated ski boots–to commemorate the lowest temperature ever recorded in Hokkaido, which was minus 41.2 degrees Celsius in 1978. This powwow is referred to as the annual “listening to the angels whisper,” which is probably exactly what you hear just before freezing to death.

Feb. 20: Kabuki Day 歌舞伎の日

izumo no okuni

Wikipedia (Kyoto National Museum)

Kabuki was first performed in 1603 by Izumo no Okuni in the dry riverbed of the Kamogawa in Kyoto. But Kabuki Day celebrates its debut in Tokyo in 1607 when it was presented to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Female Kabuki actors played both men and women’s roles but were banned in 1629 for being too “ribald and suggestive” thus ushering in the onnagata era, or, men who played women’s roles.

Feb. 22: Cat Day 猫の目

catRocketNews24

With Japan’s tendency to coddle its kitties, where its cat-owners make special kotatsu for them in winter, and where there are places where cats outnumber people, it may seem that cats do not need their own special day. Au contraire! But at least this 24-hour period, enacted in 1987 by Japan’s Pet Food Manufacturers Association, is dedicated to campaigns and educational activities related to cats and their care. So it’s really more like a feline awareness day. We can only imagine how the cats on Aoshima and the other 10 cat islands of Japan are celebrating.

Feb. 23: Mount Fuji Day 富士山の日

fujigifWikimedia (Abybariso01)

The town of Kawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture started this day in 2001 to celebrate the best views of Mount Fuji. One can never get enough of the active stratovolcano, and as the above gif image demonstrates, there are always more ways to view it (especially if it decides to erupt). So what’s not to love about this 3,776-meter celebration day (all 12,388 feet of it)?!

Feb 28: “You Idiot!” Day バカヤローの日

yoshida portraitWikipedia (WTCA)

We can thank Prime minister Shigeru Yoshida (1946-1947, 1948-1954)  for this pre-internet meme that has lasted to this day even without Twitter to help its spread. During a 1953 Lower House budget committee meeting, when asked a question by his opponent Eiichi Nishimura, the prime minister who was known for his wit, responded with “bakayarou” or “You idiot!” This was just enough to bring down his administration and give him the no-confidence vote. Yoshida immediately dissolved the Lower House rather than resigning, and the event was forever more known as the Bakayarou Dissolution. I like this guy’s style.

If you could make an unofficial holiday for February in Japan, what would it be?