English Chinese Spanish Japanese Korean Turkish

News and Announcements

Welcome to Boston Homestay - Wuhan University Chinese Group!15-Jul-2017

Welcome Wuhan University students from China! They will be touring around Boston for two weeks w..

Welcome to Boston Homestay - Academy at Harvard Square Chinese University Group!11-Jul-2017

Welcome Academy at Harvard Square university students from China! They will be attending a custo..


Best in Hospitality

Labor Day and May Day

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Celebrations on May 1 have long had two, seemingly contradictory meanings. When you think of May Day, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is spring, flowers, maypoles, and dancing. However, this date is also associated with worker solidarity and protests on Labor Day. It seems strange that May Day and Labor Day occur at the same time, but are so different in their traditions. How did these two holidays come to share a date? It happened pretty much by accident. The origins of Labor Day date back to May Day 1886, when over 200,000 U.S. workers engineered a nationwide strike for an eight-hour work day. This strike was part of what became known as the Haymarket Affair – a strike at the McCormick Reaper plant in Chicago that turned violent, followed by an even more violent meeting at Haymarket Square the next day. In 1889 the International Socialist Conference declared that in commemoration of the Haymarket affair, May 1 would be an international holiday of Labor, now known in many places as International Workers Day. The U.S. observes its official Labor Day in September, but many countries hold Labor Day celebrations in the beginning of May. Here are snapshots of some Labor Day and May Day  activities around the world:

 


Havana, Cuba

Public Health workers march through Havana’s Revolution Square during the May Day Parade, May 1, 2014.


Malaga, Spain

Workers and union members hold banners and flags of the General Workers Union and Comisiones Obreras at Marques de Larios street during a May Day demonstration on Labor Day. The banner reads, "Without quality employment, there is no recovery. More social cohesion for more democracy".


Harz, Germany

A man wearing devil make – up looks of an HSB light railway carriage as he travels through the Harz Mountains to celebrate the Walpurgisnacht pagan festival, April 30th, 2014. Legend has it that on Walpurgisnacht or May Eve, witches fly their broomsticks to meet the devil at the summit of the Brocken Mountain in Harz. In towns and villages scattered throughout the mountain region, locals make bonfires, dress in devil or witches costumes and dance into the new month of May.


Jakarta, Indonesia

Indonesian workers face a line of police during a rally outside the presidential palace in Jakarta to mark May Day, also known as Labor Day, May 1, 2014. Unions said up to two million workers would be out in force to demand better working conditions in Southeast Asia's most populous nation, although in previous years the numbers have come in much lower than such forecasts.


Paris, France

Hundreds of supporters of France's far-right National Front political party attend the party's annual May Day rally in front of the Opera in Paris, May 1, 2014

Source: CBS

The Japanese Vending Machine Experience

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Japan's vending machines are a unique aspect of Japanese culture. Japanese vending machines are unlike the vending machines that you see in schools and offices in the United States. Japanese vending machines go beyond selling your average snacks and sodas. In Japan you can find items such as hot coffee, noodle stew, or even beer and Buddhist charms. 

Vending machines inside a subway station

There is one vending machine for every 25 people in Japan. In 2015, Japanese vending machines generate more than $42 billion dollars in sales. The challenge for Japanese drinks company, Dydo Drinco, (who rivals brands like Coca Cola and generates more than 80% of its revenue from vending machine sales) is trying to stay popular in a market saturated with 24 hour convenience stores and other competition.


Vending machine selling hot meals 

In order to attract new customers Dydo Drinco has been developing ways to make vending machines "more fun". The company has previously introduced machines that can talk to customers and also offer the chance to win a bonus drink through a "roulette" game. Dydo also invented app through which users can collect points that count toward prizes. The app is linked to Line (the country's most popular messaging app) and features games like "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon's Quest". However, these apps won't help to attract foreign visitors, as Dryco was initially hoping, as they are only available in Japanese. 


A Dydo Drinco vending machine app 

Another idea of the company was to allow customers to pre-order from the machines during their morning commute or lunch rush via Smart phone. This idea is still in the works but Japan can expect to see more ideas being developed by Dydo in the future, many of them linking vending machines to smart phones to create a distinct interactive experience.  

Vending machines lining the streets of Japan

Source

The 2017 Boston Marathon

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, April 04, 2017



What: 121st Boston Marathon

When: Monday, April 17th

Where: Hopkinton – Boston, MA. (The finish line is at 665 Boylston Street)

Time: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm (The winners usually finish within two hours)

Schedule:

DIVISION START TIME
Mobility Impaired 8:50 a.m.
Men's Push-Rim Wheelchair 9:17 a.m.
Women's Push-Rim Wheelchair 9:19 a.m.
Handcycles & Duos 9:22 a.m.
Elite Women 9:32 a.m.
Elite Men & Wave One 10:00 a.m.
Wave Two 10:25 a.m.
Wave Three 10:50 a.m.
Wave Four 11:15 a.m.

History: 

After experiencing the spirit and majesty of the Olympic Marathon, B.A.A. member and inaugural US Olympic Team Manager John Graham was inspired to organize and conduct a marathon in the Boston area. With the assistance of Boston businessman Herbert H. Holton, various routes were considered, before a measured distance of 24.5 miles from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to the Irvington Oval in Boston was eventually selected. On April 19, 1897, John J. McDermott of New York, emerged from a 15-member starting field and captured the first B.A.A. Marathon in 2:55:10, and, in the process, forever secured his name in sports history.

In 1924, the course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard, and the starting line was moved west from Ashland to Hopkinton.


Why patriots Day? From 1897-1968, the Boston Marathon was held on Patriots’ Day, April 19, a holiday commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War and recognized only in Massachusetts and Maine. The lone exception was when the 19th fell on Sunday. In those years, the race was held the following day (Monday the 20th). However, in 1969, the holiday was officially moved to the third Monday in April. Since 1969 the race has been held on a Monday. The last non-Monday champion was current Runner’s World editor Amby Burfoot, who posted a time of 2:22:17 on Friday, April 19, 1968.



Important Spectator Information:

Where are the best places to watch? There is ample space every mile from Hopkinton to Boston for fans to gather and cheer on your journey to Boylston Street. Some of the most famous spots are the Wellesley Scream Tunnel just before halfway; Heartbreak Hill in Newton around Boston College; and the final stretch on Boylston Street before the finish.

Be aware that if you are watching the Boston Marathon anywhere along the 26.2-mile course you should expect a significant presence of uniformed and plain clothed police officers. In some areas, you may be asked to pass through security checkpoints. The marathon website has a full list of items that are not allowed in the race are. 

International Students LOVE the U.S.!

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, November 23, 2016

      

If you had to guess, how many international students do you think attend higher education facilities in the U.S.? Would you guess 1 million? That number seems high right? Surprisingly enough, if you guessed 1 million you would be right! Well, almost right. There are actually over one million international students in higher education in the USA - for the first time! An interesting article in StudyTravel Magazine reports a 7.1% increase of international students in the U.S. for the 2015 - 2016 year. Data from the Institute of International Education shows 1,043,839 international students in the U.S.(an increase of 69,000 since 2014 /15). International students make up 5.2% of all higher education students in the country- the highest ratio ever.  

Here are where most of the students are from: 

China


China is the largest source of international students in the U.S. 31.5% (or approx. 328,547 students) of all higher education international students in America come from China. This year showed an 8% increase of Chinese students since 2014. 

India

The second largest source is India, which has brought approx. 165,918 students to the U.S. Though a smaller number of students than China, India has the largest growth since last year with the number of Indian international students in the U.S. growing 24.9%. 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the third largest source , taking the spot of South Korea from previous years. Saudi Arabia is the home of about 61,287 international students in the U.S. However, changes to Saudi government's scholarship program have decreased growth to 2.2% compared to the double digit increases in previous years. 

This year there was also a large increase since last year in students from Nepal (up 18.4%), Vietnam (up 14.3%), Nigeria (up 12.4%) and Kuwait and Iran (both up 8.2%). 

Which states draw the most international students?

California is the largest host state with 149,328 students, followed by New York, Texas, Massachusetts (whoohoo!) and Illinois. 

In terms of the students educational levels the report shows that over 420,000 are enrolled in undergraduate courses, over 380,000 are pursuing graduate degrees, 85,000 are pursuing non - degree courses (like language schools, ect.) and 147,000 are registered in Optional Practical Training (OPT).

International students are drawn to U.S. due to the quality, diversity, and prestigious reputations of the country's institutions. As a homestay provider, we enjoy having a part in these students' international experience and the ability to introduce both hosts and students to a new culture!

The Homestay Experience

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, October 24, 2016

Living in a Homestay is a truly unique experience and the only way to really  learn about another culture and develop foreign language skills. Homestay is a full immersion in a new culture and therefore has certain advantages that private accommodations, such as an apartment or home rental, cannot provide. Such benefits include an insight into the daily life of a local family, an opportunity to practice a second language, and a chance to try typical foods of another culture.

A host attending a tailgate at Gillette Stadium with her Danish students

Global Immersions stands out as Boston's leading Homestay specialist, because we pride ourselves on ensuring that our visitors experience all of these opportunities that Homestay has to offer . In comparison to larger Homestay corporations, Global Immersions  is able to deliver a more personal experience, fostering a closer relationship with our hosts and clients. We strive for quality, and take more aspects into account when matching a visitor with a host family.  We want our visitors to have a full cultural immersion, which is why we certify that no other speakers of the visitor's native language live in the Homestay and require our hosts to communicate with their visitors in English. We take into consideration our visitor's preferences regarding conditions such as allergies, dietary restrictions, pets, smoking, heath needs, and location. We aim to make successful visitor placements by pairing visitors with hosts that share similar hobbies, interests, or personality traits. Global Immersions stands out from other Homestay specialists, because we work actively to help our visitors assimilate into a new culture and have a positive Homestay experience. Upon arrival we provide our visitors with the materials they need to be prepared to live in the home of another family. We offer group orientation sessions where we talk about the cultural differences the visitors will face in an American home and discuss what they should and should not expect of their Homestay and host family.

A host playing a game at home with her family and Danish visitors 

Our main focus as a Homestay provider is on our visitors Homestay experience. This means that we want our visitors to feel completely included in their host's daily life and totally integrated into the family as a whole. This fall, we were pleased to welcome over 163 Danish visitors from five different schools. These students from, Handelsgymnasiet Aalborg SaxogadeAalborg Handelsskole Haderslev Hadelsskole Viborg Gymnasium, and Ringkøbing Handelsskole, were in Boston attending classes at Bunker Hill community College and learning about American culture through their time in Homestay. Our hosts involved the Danish students in dozens of different activities, providing them  with countless memorable experiences and learning opportunities.

 

Danish students attending a hot yoga class with their host father


 Here are some fun moments that our hosts and Danish students shared together: 

  • We enjoyed American football games on TV, and listening to music together. We went to my sister's house in Winchester for dinners and had board game nights with everyone.
  • I took them to the Watertown Yankees Candle and I treated them all to frappes at Wild Willies. I also drove them to school three days.

  • We watched The Presidential Debate together

  • We had a great times together easting out at a restaurant and we also went to a children fundraiser at the Masonic Lodge in Melrose. They had a lot of fun with my kids.

  • We have a home in Maine, so we took them for the weekend. We saw the beautiful foliage, and took them to the Fryeburg Fair. We visited my mother's home and went to dinner together when it was my daughter's birthday. We also enjoyed watching TV together and just hanging out.
  • I teach Bikram Hot Yoga and the students came to a couple classes. They mingled with some great people, Doctors, Lawyers, Brain surgeon, cyclists, and the energy level was high. After class, the students and yoga students took a 40 minute long ocean swim. Afterwards, we toured Marblehead and hit Whole Foods for lunch.
  • We had dinner together each night and enjoyed talking about life in the United States and in Denmark. I took them to church with me, and we had brunch at a local restaurant. We went shopping at the South Shore Mall and at the supermarket. They were very helpful in the kitchen and enjoyed my cooking.
  • We attended a soccer game and went grocery shopping together. I also took them to a tailgate at Gillette. We had a blast!
  • We went to Revere beach and North Gate Mall
  • On Sunday, we took the students shopping at Legacy Place in Dedham and the following Saturday, we took them for dinner at Marina Bay in Quincy. They had a good time. Each evening, we shared the day's experience over dinner.
  • I took the girls to my church last Sunday and they were able to enjoy a true Black church experience. It was "Family and Friends Day" at the church and we also honored the women of the church who were 90 years and older. My grandson was also baptized that Sunday. The girls enjoyed my family at the gathering for my grandson at my home. I took the girls to the South Shore Mall and to the supermarket. They were extremely helpful to me in the kitchen. They mingled very well with my family and met three generations of my family members.
  • Went on a walk together to familiarize them with the neighborhood, we also went to the movies with my book club and talked about families, employment & education goals. we enjoyed having discussions about activities during the day, and comparing cultures. We went to grocery store to pick out their favorite foods, and I introduced them to the other foreign student in my home and they  chatted about their school programs.
  • We visited the Museum of Science and saw a film at the Omni 3D Theater.
  • The boys wanted to go to Taco Bell, as they had never been before. We also saw a high school football game at the Everett the football stadium and went to the Assembly Square Mall.
  • I took the girls to an All White Affair Birthday Party
  • We went to Dave and Busters
  • We visited Revere Beach
 
Danish students making sushi with their host family 
                      

It is our goal to create a positive Homestay experience for our hosts as well as our visitors. In order to continuously improve our services, we ask our visitors and hosts to evaluate their experience during the group program.  The feedback we receive shows us where improvements need to be made to enhance our programs and helps us gauge the satisfaction of our visitors. Here is just some of the many positive notes we received from the Danish students of our recent group programs.

"My Homestay helped me understand the culture of the country much better and it created new connections. "

"My overall experience was really fantastic! My family was so nice and helped me with everything. I will be back at [my host] family's house soon! Our friends loved her too! Our friends joined us on trips with the family."

"It was nice to experience new cultures from the inside and my host was the greatest!"

"Homestay is a very good way to learn about another culture. It was an amazing experience and our hosts were so nice."

Danish girls attending a white party with their host mom 

We also received fantastic feedback from the hosts of our Danish groups, who clearly enjoyed the time they spent with the students.

"These kids were great!!!! I loved them!! Great personality, friendly, fun, respectful, well rounded young men. I wish they were here longer!!"

"I really appreciate hosting the Danish students. The experience was a win/win. We both learned and had great continuous conversations about everything. I was very impressed with their interest and knowledge of U.S. Culture, History and politics as well as their concern for the global environment."

"I am thankful to Global Immersions for the great experience of hosting the Danish students. Granted, the Danish students were well mannered, educated, friendly, health conscious and overall positive happy people.   Global Immersions set the tone by competently securing every step of the students stay from arrival to departure. I thank you all at Global Immersions for doing the job correctly."

"Wonderful girls! We thoroughly enjoyed their company! Only complaint is that they couldn't stay longer!"

"We enjoyed the students from Denmark, they were very happy in our home. We all had dinner together and talked and laughed. They were fun."

"We were very, very, happy with the students we had. They were perfect guests, very fun and I miss them already."

"This was my first time have female students, and the experience was quite enjoyable. It was sad to see them go."

 

Danish boys visiting Revere Beach with their host dad     

Global Immersions is the leader in group Homestay programs. If you are interested bringing a group abroad to experience American life through Homestay please contact our coordinator 

                               

Krazy for KitKats

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I'm assuming you're familiar with the KitKat -- the milk chocolate and wafer bar you can find in just about every supermarket, gas station, and convenience store in the country. KitKat is definitely a popular chocolate in the U.S. but did you know that it is HUGE is Japan?? I had no idea until I read this article from CNN. The article is about the KitKat craze and why this chocolate is so popular in the country (it's a really interesting article so you should read it) We were so intrigued that we asked our Japanese culture consultant to give us some insight into this aspect of Japanese life.

To understand the KitKat craze in Japan it is important to understand the involvement of lucky charms in the culture. Belief in good luck charms and trinkets is strong in Japanese society. Japanese often keep a lucky charm, such as a coin, on their person during exams or important events so that they may have good fortune. KitKats became so popular because they are given as good luck charms. Why? Sort of by an unintentional coincidence. The candy's name sounds very similar to the Japanese phrase "kitto katsato", meaning "to surely win". Japanese students will receive KitKats from their parents or friends before exams as a way of saying good luck. Just how popular are KitKats?? In Japan they are sold in over 300 flavors - though not the kinds of flavors you would find in the U.S. Some notable KitKats include pumpkin pudding, green tea, shinshu apple, adzuki bean sandwhich. matcha, wasabi, purple sweet potatoes, cherry blossom, and sake (and to think I thought the white chocolate kind was adventurous). The reason for so many flavors is because of the large amount of competition within the Japanese candy business. Over 2,000 new confectionery products are released in the country each year, so KitKat must create new flavors to keep up. Colors also play a role in the creation of new flavors, as Japanese tend to prefer bright hues to ordinary ones. The different colored KitKats are more attractive to Japanese consumers than standard chocolates. KitKat in Japan goes beyond your standard chocolate bar, with products like KitKat pizza and "baking bars" designed to be cooked before eating. Since 2012m KitKat has begun to overtake major candy companies like Meji. 

KitKats are produced and displayed in Japan the way you might imagine gourmet chocolate is made here. In Japan, KitKats are sold in large stores, the way Lindt or Godiva chocolate is sold in the United States. However, despite their "gourmet" preparation, KitKats are still not viewed to be as fancy or classy like gourmet chocolate brands in America would be. For example, while it may be culturally appropriate in the U.S. to give a box of Godiva chocolates as say a housewarming gift or as an end of the year thank you to a professor, it would not be appropriate in Japan to give a KitKat as a gift in these same situations. So give a KitKat to your Japanese students before their test, but don't expect any from their parents if they come to visit. 


Did this post give you a KitKat craving?? Lucy for you, you don't have to go all the way to Japan for Matcha flavored KitKats. You can find them at most H Marts or Asian grocery stores. 

Autumn Colors Around The World

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, September 12, 2016


This month marks the beginning of the Autumn season in Boston. Soon the leaves will change and the air will become colder..even though it was 90 degrees and humid last week (gotta love that New England weather, right?) For me, fall is a season I really enjoy because of things like the excitement of going back to school, upcoming fall festivals, events for Halloween, and of course the beautiful way the trees look when I'm walking around the city.

Thinking about the changing seasons has me wondering what the fall season looks like in other parts of the world ( I've experienced fall abroad before, but I was in Greece and its basically hot there until December) I read an article on Lonley Planet about the world's best places to see Autumn colors and found that many countries also have New England-esque fall foliage.  Here are some highlights. 

Fall in Japan is just as pretty as the spring. Kouyou or Autumn leaves can be seen coloring the whole country, staring in the North and spreading to the South in September. The above photo is from the ancient capital of Nara, where its historical shrines are surrounded by leaves in an array of colors. 

The landscape of Scotland offers some of the finest Autumn scenes in Europe. According to the article, the best place to experience these Autumn hues is Pitlochry, which also hosts an Enchanted Forest each October where the trees are lit up and music is played as residents explore the woods around town.  

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is, according to Lonley Planet, arguably the best place in China for getting the full Autumn effect. The trees covering the mountain turn a bright red throughout October drawing in thousands of tourists from other parts of the country. The foliage is particularly beautiful at sunrise.  

It's no surprise that New England made the list, after all there are so many different destinations (and all equally beautiful in the Fall) to choose from. The New England location that the article decided was the best place in the area (and in the world) to experience Aumtumn was New Hampshire's White Mountains. A hike through the hills in October will surround you with bright red maple leaves and a drive to Silver Casacde Falls in Carroll Country provides a stunning view of the trees next to a gorgeous waterfall. 

If you are looking for ways to experience Fall close to home, we provided a few destinations in last weeks blog post. You can also check out our Facebook page to see what seasonal activities are happening around Boston! 

Little Italy's Big Feast

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

This Friday marks the start of the three day festival, Saint Anthony's Feast, in the North End. As you might know, the North End has feasts and festivals all summer long, but Saint Anthony's is definietly the biggest and also happens to be a personal favorite of mine. Last year I attended the feast with my family and celebrated my (37.5%) Italian-ness by eating a cannoli on Endicott street. Even if you aren't Italian, or a canoli -lover like me you'll definitely still enjoy the festival - but come on, who doesn't love cannolis??

The Feast is a very lively event, drawing huge crowds that cover the historic streets of the North End. Hundreds of food vendors line the sidewalks serving every Italian plate you could think of; from caprese salads, to sausages, to lasagna, to aranchini. Pizza, calzones, calamari, ceci, torrone, cookies, pastries, and more.  National Geographic wasn't kidding when they called it "The Feast of all Feasts". Once you're full of Italian cooking you can stroll the streets listening to live musical performances or watch the giant statue of Saint Anthony be carried through the streets in an even giant-er parade. Experience food and beverage tastings, dancing, games, and crafts for kids. 

The best part about the celebration is that a lot of North end restaurants that are typically crowded (think: Mikes Pasteries, Pizzeria Regina) have stands where you can get their famous food without waiting in an endless line. Did you say Mike's Pastries without a line??? I know right, unheard of. 

I also really like going to The Feast because the atmosphere is so upbeat and the crowd is so fun. Even though I'm only like (almost) half Italian, its nice to be around a group of people who are all part of a similar history and are celebrating a common heritage. Above everything, I enjoy being surrounded by others who share my love of c̶a̶r̶b̶s̶ ̶ Italian food. So, if this post has convinced you to go, then the only remaining tough choice is deciding what to eat. 

For a full schedule of the weekends events and a brief history of Saint Anthony's Feast click here. 

A Little Taste of the World

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Would you eat a pickle chip? What about an octopus chip? Would you try a whiskey and haggis chip? How about a Marmite chip? Why am I even asking about chips???? Well, National Geographic recently published an article about unusual potato chip flavors around the world which I thought was very interesting. The article is an interview with Ali Payne, the vice president of global snacks innovation at PepsiCo, who explains how cultural cravings affect potato chip flavor trends. She talks about how chip flavors reflect the components of the typical foods in each region and are therefore the best way to eat like a local when traveling. 

 In other words: potato chips make great souvenirs. 

If you're familiar with the Do Us a Flavor competition (aka the thing responsible for Chicken and Waffles Lay's) then you've probably seen some pretty crazy chip flavors on the shelves. According to Ali Payne, preferences for flavors in the program are usually similar to local comfort food - which explains flavors like garlic bread or southern biscuits and gravy in the U.S. and English Breakfast in the U.K.

The part of the article that I found really interesting though was about how globalization is affecting our food - or more specifically our chips. The article explains that since people are becoming more and more exposed to different flavor around the world from travel and social media, ingredients from other countries are gaining popularity.  "A flavor like wasabi and ginger, which may have once been considered exotic in the U.S., is now a hugely popular flavor thanks to the prevalence of Japanese cuisine, and Italian red meat is now one of the most popular flavors in China." 

I also learned from this article that the U.S. has the most flavor diversity of any country (which makes sense considering the whole melting pot thing) so I was inspired to go to a local grocery store and see for myself the range of flavors that the US potato chip market has to offer. What I gathered from looking at the aisles was that the US does in fact have a wide variety of chips...actually compared to the grocery stores that I've visited in Europe, we have a wide variety of everything. So, perhaps it is true that the food in our stores reflects the diversity of our nation. If anything, it definitely reflects our culture of consumerism. 


In looking at a survey done in 2015, it appears that although we have a diverse variety of odd flavors, the most popular flavors among Americans tend to be more conservative, reflecting typical American dishes and usual food flavorings. This is not surprising given the information in the article. People prefer the types of flavors that they have grown up eating, and for Americans this means flavors like plain and (of course) BBQ. 

Greetings From Japan

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Our group programs coordinator, Gen, has been away recently, visiting his family and friends back home in Japan. Gen has been writing about his experiences in Japan and providing us with some insight on Japanese culture. Read Gen's post below to learn about one of the traditional holiday seasons occurring in Japan this month! 

Greetings from Japan! I am currently back in my country Japan just temporarily, seeing my family and relatives for the first time after two years and reuniting with my old friends.  These past two weeks have been wonderful and have really been enjoying the authentic Japanese foods here, but also I’m excited to come back to Boston in about a week and be back in the office!

So, in this Blog I’d like to talk about one of the traditional holiday seasons in Japan, called “Obon.” The Obon holiday runs for about a week before and after the 15th of August, and just like the Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays in the U.S., everybody takes some days-off from work to celebrate this yearly tradition. Typically, people travel back to their homes to visit their families, and have family reunions with a lot of foods and drinks to celebrate with. Towns and villages throughout the country organize large festivals at parks and shrines for those who celebrate the holiday. It’s not very common in where I am from, but in some regions people celebrate the holiday with parades and massive bonfires. There are no rules about what foods to serve and it varies a lot from prefecture to prefecture. Here in Ishikawa prefecture, people usually prepare fresh fish and root vegetables like radish because Ishikawa by the ocean and abundant in rich soils.

When did this tradition originate? The exact time is actually not certain as different websites say the different times in history, but the general idea is that it began around 600 A.D. as a Buddhist ritual to welcome ancestral spirits back to the earth for the week to demonstrate respects to them. Haka-Mairi, or grave visits, are one of the most important and widely-practiced family traditions for this holiday. People visit the graveyard of their ancestors, decorate the gravestone with flowers and special ornaments, and pray for the well-being and good health of their family members for another year to come. Again the traditions and ritual customs vary slightly in different areas in Japan, but the picture below is how these gravestones during the Obon time usually look. 

I talked about the religious aspects of what Obon is, but the most important part of this holiday is that this is when Japanese people have reunions with families and friends, and along with New Year’s Day (or Oshogatsu) this holiday brings back all generations in the family. Many families plan their August activities based on their own Obon celebration date in August. With all the Obon themed festivals, fireworks and “bon-odori” Japanese traditional dance events, this holiday is the absolute favorite for many Japanese.