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Japanese laugh their troubles away

man December 2, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EST

HOUFU CITY, Japan (CNN) -- It isn't unusual for a group of people to sit around the dinner table and have a few laughs. In Japan, though, it's a tradition.

The traditional laughing ceremony took place in Houfu City in Yamaguchi prefecture, in Western Japan, on Sunday. movie icon (740K/19 sec. QuickTime movie)

The ceremony was first held during the Kamakura period, some 700 years ago. Participants gathered at the house of Shouzoh Ishikawa, this year's chosen leader of the ceremony.

woman

A Shinto ritual was held before the guests began a feast of special dishes and Japanese rice wine.

The ceremony began with the sound of drumbeats. Each pair of guests sat face to face and laughed out loud three times while holding a branch of the sacred sakaki tree.

The first round of laughter represents gratitude for the year's good harvest, while the second is meant to be a prayer for a good harvest next year. The third burst of laughter is supposed to help the guests forget any hardships that were experienced during the past year.


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