Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day – Kinro Kansha no Hi
Every 23rd of November, Japan celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day to honour workers, commemorate labour and production, and give thanks for employment and the prosperity that working brings to the family. Labor Thanksgiving Day is a modern name for the ancient ritual Niiname Sai, or Harvest Festival. The origin of Niiname Sai is thought to go back to when rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago, although the first record is found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicle of Japan) which is one of the oldest histories of Japan dating from 720. It is said that the emperor would taste the first rice harvest himself and dedicate the season’s fresh harvet to the gods.
After World War II, Japan signed the post-war constitution that was written by allied forces, and in 1948 the holiday developed into what we now know it as. “The holiday allowed people to make thanks for their recently introduced workers’ rights, such as minimum wages, a cap on working hours and the formation of unions. It was also set to have people celebrate their new-found freedom, no longer being subjects beneath a ruling Emperor; in turn supporting the shift their country was going through, instead of fighting against it.” (axiommagazine.jp)
Holiday traditions include early grade elementary students creating drawings or “Thank You” cards for the holiday and giving them as gifts to local kōbans (police stations), hospitals or fire stations; a labour festival is held in the city of Nagano; schools and government offices are closed; and many people will visit their local shrine or temple and reflect on the issues surrounding peace and human rights.