November 23 – Labor Thanksgiving Day

Posted: 21/11/2020
Category: Japanese Holidays

Statue from Mount Koya in autumn.
Statue from Mount Koya in autumn.
Image source: Alexandra Baranyi

Labor Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in Japan that marks the commemoration of the current year's work and harvests. Before World War II, this holiday was named the Harvest Festival (niiname-sai). The main reason for this change was to mark the amendments brought to the Japanese Constitution to guarantee fundamental human rights and extend workers' rights.

The Harvest Festival has a rich history dating back to the 7th century. The first mention of the Festival is found in the "Chronicle of Japan" (Nihon Shoki), one of the oldest manuscripts about the history of Japan. It mentions of a harvest ritual that took place during the reign of Emperor Jimmu (660-585 BC) as well as the holidays of the more formal harvest during the reign of Emperor Seine (480-484 AD). However, the basic forms of the Harvest Festival date back to the time of Emperor Tenmu (667-686 AD). November 23 was chosen as the date for the celebration of this Festival during the Meiji era (1868-1912).

Among other small local events, Labor Thanksgiving Day is marked by a ritual in which the Emperor offers to the gods a fresh harvest of rice as a gift, and then He himself will taste the offering.

An important event is the Nagano Labor Festival. At this event, people are encouraged to think about issues that affect peace, human rights and the environment. Also, on this day, kindergarten children offer drawings as a sign of respect and appreciation to police officers, firefighters and other people who provide community services.

Children drawing on the occasion of Labor Thanksgiving Day.
Children drawing on the occasion of Labor Thanksgiving Day.
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