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Otsukaresama! – Kinrou Kansha no Hi or Labor Thanksgiving Day

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/18 Traditional Culture , , , ,

Every 23rd of November is Kinrou Kansha no Hi (勤労感謝の日).The name of the holiday is made up of two words kinrou (勤労) which means labor, and kansha (感謝) which means gratitude. So, technically the holiday is translated as Labor Thanksgiving Day. As an effect of the Happy Monday System, because November 23 this year was a Sunday, the Monday next to it, today, was a national holiday.

History of the Holiday

Niinamesai, the Harvest Festival

The history of this holiday can be traced back hundreds and hundreds of years ago. The main reason of the celebration is somehow different. According to the Nihon Shoki (also known as The Chronicles of Japan in English), one of the oldest record of classical Japanese history, a Niinamesai (新嘗祭, Harvest Festival) took place in November 678. But historians believed that the Niinamesai is much older, more than 2000 years ago. The festival then was first celebrated on a fixed date, November 23, during the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912), and was a national celebrated event.

The Niinamesai is more of a Shinto ritual. By the end of November, all that was planted and sowed in summer is about to be harvested and that includes rice. During the ritual, the Emperor makes the season’s first offering of freshly harvested rice to the gods and he, himself, is the the first one to partake of the rice.

Okayama Korakuen - rice field

Rice is a staple food among the Japanese. The Japanese rice is said to have different taste among other rice variants.

In the year 1948, after World War II, the Kinrou Kansha no Hi was established. Like the Bunka no Hi or Culture Day, one of its purpose is to mark some of the changes of the postwar constitution of Japan, which then included essential human rights and the expansion of workers’ rights. It is a day where citizens express gratitude to each other for the work done throughout the year and for the fruits of those labors. In its very essence, the holiday changed only a little. Both still celebrated the notion that each one reaps what they sow, and everyone should be grateful for what they have, as it is hard-work as well as fortune that keeps us in good health. Today, Kinrou Kansha no Hi is a national holiday while the Niinamesai is celebrated as a private function of the Imperial Family.

One of the major events that are held on this day is the Nagano Labor Festival in Nagano City, Nagano (the host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics). Local labor organizations sponsor this event to inspire people to think about issues related to human rights, peace, and the environment.

kinrou kansha

Image from Naver Matome

In some places in Japan, nursery school pupils present handicrafts and drawings to local police officers as a way of saying gratitude to them.

Otsukaresama!

About the title, Otsukaresama (お疲れ様) is one of those Japanese expressions that does not have an English equivalent expression. Some translate it as “Cheers/Thanks for the hard work!” and is mostly heard in offices and work places. During the Kinrou Kansha no Hi, you may hear it from everyone.

So, what do you think of this holiday? Share it with us in the comments section below!

References:

1. Labor Thanksgiving Day. Web-Japan.

2. Labor Thanksgiving Day – 勤労感謝の日. Axiom Magazine.

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