Legend of the Five Rings - Cobalt and Steel
Festivals of Rokugan
Listed below are the various holidays celebrated across Rokugan. While not exhaustive, they cover the largest, most widely celebrated festivals.
Many thanks to Kitsuki, DM of Kanshigumi: The Ivory Lotus for her allowing me to reproduce so much of her excellent research and creativity here for my own campaign.
|January – February|
|Serpent||Spring||February – March|
|Horse||Spring||March – April|
|Goat||Spring||April – May|
|Monkey||Summer||May – June|
|Rooster||Summer||June – July|
|Dog||Summer||July – August|
|Boar||Fall||August – September|
|Rat||Fall||September – October|
|Ox||Fall||October – November|
|Tiger||Winter||November – December|
|Hare||1st of the Hare||O-Shogatsu (Big New Year)1|
|Hare||7th of the Hare||Festival of the Moon’s Wrath|
|Serpent||3rd of the Serpent||Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival)|
|Horse||1st of the Horse||Banpufutō no Hi (The Day of the Mighty Warrior)|
|Horse||23rd of the Horse||Sakura no Sekku (Cherry Blossom Festival)|
|Goat||5th of the Goat||Sobu no Sekku (Iris Festival)|
|Goat||6th of the Goat||Kenkyo Kame no Sekku (Festival of the Humble Turtle)|
|Rooster||7th of the Rooster||Tanabata Festival|
|Rooster||25th of the Rooster||Urabon (Bon Festival)|
|Dog||12th of the Dog||Kanto Festival|
|Boar||9th of the Boar||
Choyo no Sekku (Chysanthemum Festival)
24th of the Rat
|Ox||22nd of the Ox||Shichi Go San Matsuri (7-5-3 Festival)|
|Tiger||4th of the Tiger||Shouting Day|
Month of the Hare
O-Shogatsu (Big New Year) 1st of the Hare
Note: The week-long New Year Festival also includes Toshi no Ichi, the Year-End Fair.
The Rokugani New Year festival is a week-long celebration of putting the old year behind and embracing the new. One of the most important pieces of this celebration is the ringing of the joya no kane, or end-of year bell, in the local Shintao temples. The 108 tolls of the bell represent the 108 worldly concerns of the previous year, and the ringing is the process of leaving them behind for the new year. The last toll of the bell is at midnight, so that it coincides with the beginning of the new year. The celebrations for the rest of the week include the day on which all Rokugani celebrate their “birthday,” as well as any family celebrations.
New Year festivities occur throughout the Empire. Special meals are prepared with foods that represent longevity and luck, including soba noodles. Mochi (mashed rice cakes) are also prepared. Houses are decorated with kagami mochi, two mochi cakes topped by a small bitter orange. More elaborate kagami mochi, used to decorate wealthy households, may include dried kelp and persimmons, folded paper strips, or other auspicious symbols. The kagami mochi are broken and eaten the following day in a brief Shintao ceremony.
Samurai households (and some wealthy merchants) pass out small bags of mochi with mikan (mandarin oranges) to local children. The Seppun family oversee this for the Imperial household, stationing samurai at the gates of the palace to pass out the treats.
Many houses host parties called bōnenkai in the week before the first of Hare. These “Forget the Year” gatherings are often raucous and alcohol-laden.
Both children and adults often participate in kite flying and hanetsuki (a sort of badminton). Court ladies are especially fond of hanetsuki, wielding elaborate wooden raquets that they often decorate themselves. Ladies of the house may have “ancestral” raquets, passed down from mother to daughter over several generations.
One of the most important parts of the celebration involves the many “firsts” of the new year. Some examples are the first sunrise (hatsuhinode), the first shrine visit (hatsumōde), and the first work (shigoto hajime). Poetry to commemorate firsts is very popular. The first laughter, first tea ceremony, first moon, first dream, and first win (whether in a game or spar) are among the many things that find their way into poetry during the month or so after New Year.
This is also when major household cleaning takes place. Winter things are put away, even if the weather doesn’t quite agree with the calendar.
Festival of the Moon’s Wrath 7th of the Hare
Just after the New Year, while the ground is laden with snow, Rokugan celebrates the Moon in one day and two nights of complete silence. At sunset on the 7th day, the people of Rokugan cease talking, and do not say another word until sunrise on the 9th day. This is done to appease the Moon and attempt to avoid his wrath for the coming year. Anyone who speaks during this time is believed to draw the attention of Lord Moon.
Month of the Serpent
Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) 3rd of the Serpent
Other Names: Sangatsu Sekku (3rd Month Festival), Momo Sekku (Peach Festival), Joshi no Sekku (Girls’ Festival)
The Doll Festival is a celebration of the girls of Rokugan. The name of the festival comes from the tradition of samurai girls, trained by the courtiers and handmaidens of their families, to arrange their hina ningyo (a set of dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, and their court) on a tiered stand in their homes. The girls visit the homes of their friends on this day, admiring each other’s hina ningyo. In areas where a body of water is available, straw dolls representing the girls are fashioned and then tossed into the water in the hopes that unfriendly spirits will be tricked into floating away with the effigies.
Month of the Horse
Banpufutō no Hi (The Day of the Mighty Warrior) 1st of the Horse
The 1st day of the Horse, formally known as the month of Akodo is a new holiday instituted by Toturi III. Occurring as it does in the month officially known as Akodo, it is an obvious tribute to his father and sister. The dojo of the Emerald Champion holds an exhibition tournament – primarily kendo, but including most of the martial arts. The tradition was quickly adopted by Lion dojo and is spreading to other clans. Of course, since this occurs in the first month of summer – the beginning of the war season – some of the Lion exhibitions are intended as much for intimidation as celebration, becoming the send-off party for the army.
Sakura no Sekku (Cherry Blossom Festival) 23rd of the Horse
Other Names: Flower Festival (Hana Matsuri)
In Rokugan, everything has its own spirit, as well as its own beauty. Traditional artwork is focused on the quest to capture a thing of perfection – the perfect mountain, the perfect lake, or the perfect cherry tree. The Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of this beauty, when the Rokugani gather together for the Hanami, or flower viewing. On this day (and in many places for several days during this season), courts and feasts are held outside, under a canopy of blooming cherry trees. The precise dates are determined by the blooming of the cherry blossoms. When the blossoms reach their peak, groups gather under the trees for a picnic, which often involve large quantities of sake and poetry. Revelry is quiet and elegant during the day, but as the night approaches and the sake cups empty, the prim would do well to remove themselves. People who have the leisure and the money might travel to the famed Crane gardens to celebrate the holiday by the same trees under which the first Hantei and Lady Doji are said to have exchanged verse.
Month of the Goat
Sobu no Sekku (Iris Festival) 5th of the Goat
Other Names: Tango no Sekku (Tango Festival)
The fifth day of the fifth month is the Iris Festival. The tall-stemmed iris is a flower resembling the blade of the katana, which has led to the custom of placing iris leaves in a boy’s bath to give him a martial spirit. Because of this, the Iris Festival is a festival for boys, corresponding to the girls’ Doll Festival. It is customary on this day for families with male children to fly koinobori – carp streamers, a symbol of success – outside the home and display musha ninguo – warrior dolls – inside. Since irises are also believed to repel evil spirits and its leaves are shaped like swords and represent strength in battle, the Rokugani hang bunches of iris from the eaves of the roof in order to repel disease and ensure martial victory. Samurai families also display miniature suits of armor. It is worth noting that in families with a strong matriarchal tradition, many celebrate this as Children’s Day and may not celebrate the Doll Festival at all.
Kenkyo Kame no Sekku (Festival of the Humble Turtle) 6th of the Goat – Kenson Gakka
The Humble Turtle is an annual festival celebrated in the Lion city of Kenson Gakka. The festival celebrates the capture of the city from the Scorpion in the early sixth century.
Month of the Rooster
Tanabata Festival 7th of the Rooster
Other Names: Festival of the River of Stars, Star Festival
This festival is based on a Phoenix folktale concerning a weaving maiden and a cowherd that were madly in love, but unable to be together. They were taken by the fortunes and placed in the sky, separated by the River of Stars. One day a year, if the River does not flood, they can cross and meet, but to make sure no dishonor is brought to their families, the people of Rukugan come out on this day to chaperone the meeting of the two lovers. The Rokugani often write wishes and romantic aspirations on long, narrow strips of colored paper and hang them on bamboo branches for this festival.
Urabon (Bon Festival) 25th of the Rooster
Another long festival, the Bon Festival occupies the last four days of the Month of the Rooster. This is a celebration of Rokugan’s honored dead. The parades for these four days are incredibly fantastic, with representation of the kami, the Dragons, and many ghosts, as well as music, dance, and even fireworks. The last night of the festival is the Toro Nagashi – Lantern Floating. Paper lantern boats are made and inscribed with the names of those who died in the previous year, as well as mesages for their spirits. The lanterns are set afloat on a nearby river or the sea, to light the spirits’ way across the River of Stars and into Yomi.
The festival of the dead is a time for revering one’s ancestors. Those who are able return to their family graves to clean and tend them and make offerings to the honored dead, who come back to visit at this time. (While ancestors have been known to manifest, they are normally present as invisible spirits only. Those who wish a more tangible communication may ask a shugenja to intercede. Such conversations are by no means guaranteed, as the spirit is under no obligation to speak. Even when they do agree, the conversations are normally brief and limited.) Traditional dances are performed. In Toshi Ranbo these are huge affairs with performers from every clan participating. The Emperor and Empress make a rare public appearance. (Such as it is. They are behind screens of state and are not actually visible to the general public.)
Month of the Dog
Kanto Festival 12th of the Dog
The Kanto Festival is another festival from very early in Rokugan’s ancient history. The purpose of the festival is to drive sleepiness away during the hot summer months. The Rokugani raise kanto – large bamboo poles with rows of a dozen or more lit paper lanterns – and parade through the streets, drawing the sleepiness out of the people.
Month of the Boar
Choyo no Sekku (Chrysanthemum Festival) 9th of the Boar
The Chrysanthemum is the symbol of the Rokugani royal family, their ties to Amaterasu, and all of the Kami who fell from the heavens. It is a week-long celebration of the Emperor, as well as the founders of the Great Clans. For three days before and three after, all work in Rokugan stops. Even peasants are not allowed to pick up a tool. only on the day of the Festival itself can anyone take up their work, and then only in celebration of the Kami.
Month of the Rat
Setsuban Festival 24th of the Rat
The Setsuban Festival is a celebration of autumn and the beauty of Rokugan. It is a celebration of the changing of the leaves from green to their fiery fall colors. Itt is also a celebration of peace, as the often-troubled spring and summer months begin to give way to the snowy and peaceful winter. No man may shed blood on this day, all executions are put off, and the occasional prisoner is granted a pardon.
Month of the Ox
Shichi Go San Matsuri (7-5-3 Festival) 22nd of the Ox
This festival celebrates the children of the Empire. Five-year-old boys and three- and seven-year-old girls are dressed in their finest and taken by their families to their local shrine. Because these numbers are considered unlucky, the children are prayed for by the priests and their families so that their ancestors and the kami will watch over them for the year to come and bring them good luck instead of bad. Most shrines also sell chitose-ame, or thousand-year candy, at this time, so that the ancestors of the last thousand years will be included in the festival.
Month of the Tiger
Shouting Day 4th of the Tiger
Shouting Day is a peasant holiday in which the peasants of a village will all come together and shout their plights to Osano-Wo. Shouts are generally complaints about the harvest, disobedient children, and disrespectful wives. Samurai do not participate in Shouting Day, as it is well below their station.