Labour Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday in Japan, celebrated on November 23rd. This day is dedicated to celebrating workers and production, and is a national holiday incorporated in Japan’s Happy Monday System. If the day falls on a Sunday, it is celebrated on the Monday after it. Most businesses remain open on this day, but government services are closed.

History of Labour Thanksgiving Day

This day was originally known as Niinamesai, which was the ritual of Harvest Festival. This had a much different meaning to that of Labour Thanksgiving Day today. The celebration started centuries ago, with ancient chronicles stating that Niinamesai started in November 678. When the holiday first began, it was in celebration of the fall harvest alongside the harvest ritual carried out by the Japanese emperor and the Royal Court.

It wasn’t until after World War II that Niinamesai was re-established as Labour Thanksgiving Day. The meaning of the day altered to recognise and mark the changes of post-war constitution in Japan, when Japan changed from an agrarian nation, to an industrial one. The new constituition included changes to fundamental human rights, and developments in workers’ rights, replacing the Meiji Constitution. It made sense to make this change from a harvest focus to a labour one as most of Japan’s citizens were now workers instead of farmers.

Labour Thanksgiving Day Celebrations

Labor Thanksgiving Day Celebrations in Japan

Special events are held in celebration of this day across Japan. One of the largest events is the Nagano Labour Festival, which is to celebrate the environment, peace, and human rights. Nagano hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1998 and has continued to be host to one of the biggest events on Labour Thanksgiving Day. This festival is sponsored by labour organisations that encourage citizens to think about issues affecting the environment, peace, and human rights.

Many school pupils participate in celebrations by giving thanks to workers in their community. This is often giving thanks to police officers, firemen, etc, for looking after the community on a daily basis.

Many Japanese citizens use this national holiday to connect with close family and friends, enjoying good food and company. These gatherings tend to involve discussions about accomplishments throughout the year, and goals they have for the future.

Nagano Ebisuko Fireworks Festival coincides with Labour Thanksgiving Day, and marks the end of the Ebisuko Festival. This fireworks festival is thought to be one of Japan’s most beautiful autumn firework displays. Over 400,000 people gather to watch the impressive display, and so many incorporate the festival in their Labour Thanksgiving Day celebrations.

To keep up to date with more Japanese traditions and national holidays, check out the rest of our blog!


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