Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kinrō kansha no hi - Labor Thanksgiving Day

November 23 is a holiday in Japan called Kinrō kansha no hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day). It was made a national holiday in 1948. The purpose of this holiday is to praise labor, celebrate production and give one another thanks.

Prior to 1948 this holiday was a holiday to celebrate the yearly rice harvest. The imperial harvest festival was called Niiname-sai. Niiname-sai was made a holiday during the Meiji period but was celebrated before the Meiji period as early as 678 AD. During this festival, at the end of each years rice harvest, the emperor would offer newly harvested rice to the Shinto divinities of the Sky and Earth and taste the rice for the first time. Niiname-Sai is still held privately by the Imperial Family.

In 1948, the holiday was renamed and changes were made in how it was celebrated. The reason for the changes were to get away from religion (it was viewed as a Shinto celebration) and to mark changes brought about by the postwar constitution of Japan. It became a day to both honor those people who's daily work ensures the country's economic prosperity and to recognize and give thanks for fundamental human rights. For this reason events are held throughout Japan, that encourage thinking about the environment, peace, and human rights.

As well as being Labor Thanksgiving day and a day to celebrate the rice harvest festival, November 23 is also Nogyosai. Nogyosai is an unofficial holiday for farm hands established in 1962. Nogyosai is celebrated by displaying exhibitions of agricultural output (things like machines, tools, fertilizers and technical literature) through out the country.

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