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Labor Thanksgiving Day Posted by on Nov 24, 2009 in Holidays

In Japan, the twenty-third of November is きんろうかんしゃのひ, or Labor Thanksgiving Day. (きんろう = labor. かんしゃ = thanks, gratitude. の = no particle. ひ = day.) Labor Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday where people remember all the hard work done in the agricultural industry, the service industry and many other industries. I think nowadays people are also starting to give thanks to the labor women do in the household as well, but the idea that household work is “work” hasn’t fully caught on in Japan. On this day people give a small present, (like a box of chocolates) to their co-workers and bosses.

The 交番 (kouban) are especially honored on Labor Thanksgiving Day. The 交番 is a term used to refer to small neighborhood police stations. These neighborhood police stations are different from the centralized and larger police stations in that the neighborhood police stations can interact with the people in the neighborhood at a more initimate level than the bigger police stations. If you ever get lost in Japan, get the assistance of the 交番. They are very helpful and friendly. On Labor Thanksgiving Day, school children often draw pictures and present them as giving thanks for all that the hard work of the 交番.

Originally, きんろうかんしゃのひ was a festival called にいなめさい. にいなめさい was a festival that celebrated the rice harvest festival. The reigning emperor at the time would give thanks to the gods for a rich harvest in a ceremonial festival. After World War II, to reflect the fact that Japan was no longer a primarily agricultural society, the shift changed to honor all types of work, not just agricultural work. Also, after World War II, Labor Thanksgiving Day became a platform for human and worker’s rights organizations to denounce some of the injustices concerning human  and worker’s rights.

Some cities hold parades to honor all the occupations within the city. Some hold peace demonstrations. For some people Labor Thanksgiving Day is a day of rest and relaxation. Unlike the Thanksgiving Day celebrated in the U.S., the Japanese version is more focused on resting and honoring the occupations rather than eating good food and spending time with family. A good phrase you can use on this day is おつかれさまでした, which means “thanks for your hard work” or “you did good work” or “you worked hard”. There’s no direct translation for this in English, but that’s what it means.

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