Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but this year, instead of eating too much turkey and passing out on the couch, why not take time to give thanks for everyone’s hard work and labor? In Japan, November 23 is Labor Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday celebrating hard work and productivity.
Established after WWII under Japan’s new constitution, Labor Thanksgiving Day or Kinro Kansha no Hi is actually a modern reboot of an ancient harvest festival, Niinamesai or “Celebration of First Tastes”. The oldest written record of Niinamesai dates back to 720, but the festival itself may be more than 2,000 years old. During Niinamesai, the Emperor offers the newly harvested rice to the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, who is fabled to be an ancestor of the Japanese Imperial lineage. The Emperor then consumes the offerings himself. In modern times, Labor Thanksgiving Day not only commemorates the first harvest, but also worker’s rights and human rights.