Umi no Hi: Marine Day in Japan
Marine Day to thank the ocean for its gifts in Japan
July in Japan is the month of the seas and oceans, as the third Sunday of the month is Umi no Hi (海の日) or Marine Day, also know as “Sea Day” or “Ocean Day”, a day to give thanks to the ocean’s bounty.
We have already said on other occasions, but Japan is a country with strong ties to nature. The major religions in Japan are Shintoism and Buddhism, both in equal measure since most Japanese practice both (this has historical reasons that we will talk about on another occasion). Especially in Shintoism a lot of importance is given to nature. In fact, this religion is essentially a nature cult, since it considers all elements of nature to be deities.
Like it happens for example in traditionally Christian countries, although many people are no longer believers, it has influenced that society, its traditions and its culture. Therefore, although today young people are not very devout or practicing, Japanese people in general are very aware of the importance of nature and value it very much.
As Japan is an island, the sea has been and continues to be very important to the country in many ways. Not only is it a source of livelihood, thanks for example to fishing, one of the main pillars of food in the country, but it has also served as a defense in the past. Japan was one of the few countries in which the Mongol Empire suffered defeat, and twice, in 1274 and 1281. On both occasions the cause of the Japanese victory was not the strength or power of their army, far inferior to that of the Mongol army; but it was a powerful storm the first time and a typhoon the second time that destroyed the enemy fleet.
The history of Umi no Hi
Marine Day was first established in 1941 with the name of Marine Memorial Day and celebrated on July 20th. Back then, it was created to commemorate the return of the Meiji Emperor’s to the Port of Yokohama safely after a sea voyage across Tohoku and Hokkaido in 1879. But in 1995 the government changed the name and the propose of this day and became a national holiday for the first time in 1996. Since then Marine Day have been a day to appreciate and show gratitude for the gifts of the ocean.
In 2003 the Japanese government began to implement what is known as “Happy Monday”. Japan is the country with the most national holidays in the world, but they are usually on single days during the week. On the other hand, companies do not usually offer many vacation days per year, especially to new employees. Therefore, the government decided to change some national holidays to Mondays, creating a 3-day long weekend that people can enjoy more than a day off during the week. It was then that Marine Day was changed to the third Monday in July.
The Umi no Hi today
Unlike other holidays, Umi no hi is a relatively new celebration, so there is no traditional way to celebrate it. But that doesn’t mean that nothing is done on this day. The Marine Day marks the beginning of summer vacation for many students, and for those who are already working it means having 3 days off. So since it’s summer, many people take the opportunity to take a trip to the beach with friends or family. If you can’t go all 3 days, you can make a day trip to a nearby beach. Those who can’t go out of town can enjoy special events held at aquariums, swimming pools, etc.
If you are in Tokyo for this date, there is a very popular and beautiful event that you can enjoy. I’m talking about the Marine Day Lantern Festival held every year in Odaiba. Volunteers light up different colored paper lanterns on the beach – it’s said that there are more than 50,000 lanterns! The sight of all those paper lanterns lit at night is enchanting. And in addition, in the local area there are also other activities that visitors can enjoy only during this day.
In previous years, a fireworks display was also held in Yokohama at this time, as it was the port where Emperor Meiji arrived after his voyage, the event that led to the creation of Marine Day. Since 2020, the Yokohama Sparkling Twilight has been cancelled to avoid crowds of people in the already well-known situation of the last two years. In 2022 the organizers have decided to suspend the fireworks show also as a precaution. We hope that this will be the last year that they will have to be cancelled.
And that’s all! If you are in Japan for this day, it’s a good opportunity to celebrate it by visiting the beaches of Japan or a water park, just like the locals do.
Thanks for reading! If you want to know more about Japanese national holidays or things to go in Japan in July, take a look to these articles too.