Labor Thanksgiving Day

Labor Thanksgiving Day (勤労感謝の日Kinrō Kansha no Hi) is a national holiday in Japan celebrated on November 23 of each year. The law establishing the holiday cites it as an occasion to commemorate labor and production and give one other thanks.

Events are held throughout Japan, one such being the Nagano Labor Festival. The event encourages thinking about the environment, peace and human rights. Early-grade elementary students often create drawings for the holiday and give them as gifts to local kōbans (neighborhood police stations).


History

Labor Thanksgiving Day is the modern name for an ancient harvest festival known as Niiname-sai (新嘗祭, also read as Shinjō-sai), celebrating the harvest of the Five Cereals (rice, barley/wheat, foxtail millet, barnyard millet, proso millet, and beans). The classical chronicle the Nihon Shoki mentions a harvest ritual having taken place during the reign of the legendary Emperor Jimmu (660–585 BC), as well as more formalized harvest celebrations during the reign of Emperor Seinei (480–484 AD). Modern scholars can date the basic forms of niiname-sai to the time of Emperor Tenmu (667–686 AD). Traditionally, it celebrated the year’s hard work; during the Niiname-sai ceremony, the Emperor would dedicate the year’s harvest to kami (spirits), and taste the rice for the first time.

The modern holiday was established after World War II in 1948 as a day to mark some of the changes of the postwar Constitution of Japan, including fundamental human rights and the expansion of worker’s rights. Currently, Niiname-sai is still held privately by the Imperial House of Japan on the same day as Labor Thanksgiving Day, which has become a public national holiday.

May 1 is also celebrated as Labor Day by many trade unions in Japan, which hold large rallies and marches in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.


Celebration

On this day, school children prepare cards or gifts to distribute to police officers, firefighters, hospital staffs, personnel of the Japan Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard and other people in the labor sector to show appreciation for their contributions to the country. Companies review their accomplishments and congratulate their workers for their dedication. Families get together and have dinner at home on this holiday.


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