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Culture Day

Culture Day 2019 and 2020

Culture Day is a Japanese holiday that honors the arts, culture, and academic pursuits.

20193 NovSunCulture Day
4 NovMonCulture Day Holiday
20203 NovTueCulture Day

The holiday is currently observed by Japanese people on November 3 each year. In Japanese, Culture Day is called Bunka no Hi. While Culture Day in Japan is a time to admire existing arts and culture, the holiday also encourages continuous learning and personal expression.


Culture Day is a fairly modern holiday, but it is derived from events that occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries. Before Culture Day existed, November 3 was a day that celebrated the birthday of the Meiji Emperor. This birthday celebration began in 1868. In 1927, the birthday celebration of the Meiji Emperor was moved to a different day. November 3 was no longer a holiday for about 20 years.

In 1946, the Japanese government made the decision to make November 3 a holiday that would honor Japan’s new outlook for the future. In 1947, the first Culture Day was celebrated on November 3. This was a day that would celebrate some of the changes that were implemented into Japanese society by the new constitution that was created by Emperor Hirohito and American forces.

Prior to the conclusion of World War II, Japan’s government was becoming totalitarian as many aspects of society were militarized. During this time, many human rights such as freedom of expression were uncommon. This situation changed entirely after the new Japanese constitution was implemented after the war. With a constitutional monarchy system that introduced some basic human rights, Japanese citizens were able to enjoy academic pursuits, culture, and the arts. Today, people continue to observe Culture Day as a way of honoring free thinking, human rights, and prosperity.


Culture Day is widely celebrated across Japan by scholars, students, and people with an appreciation for any aspect of culture or academics.

  • Art Shows

    Many people will use Culture Day as an opportunity to visit an art exhibition at a museum or city center. There are often special exhibits that follow a certain historical period or genre of art. For example, many art show organizers display art that is related to Edo or Feudal Japan.

  • Tradition and History

    Culture Day is also a time to reflect for Japanese citizens to reflect on their nation’s rich history. On Culture Day, there are often many lectures and informative exhibits that teach people about certain Japanese eras. These lectures and exhibits will cover a range of topics, including traditional clothing, language, anthropology, and military studies. Regardless of whether a person is interest in the Meiji Restoration or Ancient Japan, Culture Day usually offers opportunities for everyone.

  • Scholarly Pursuits

    Culture Day is often a major milestone for people that are deeply involved with academic research. On November 3 of each year, university students of all levels and disciplines will unveil all of their hard work that they have spent on performing studies, researching, and testing ideas. These research presentations are usually open to the public. Panel discussions about important academic topics are also held by professionals at major universities.

  • The Order of Culture Award

    Each year on Culture Day, professionals and scholars from various academic disciplines are invited to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo for the Order of Culture award ceremony. At this ceremony, one individual or group will be granted entry into the Order of Culture, an elite Japanese order that honors people who have made significant contributions to the culture, art, or academic pursuits of Japan and the world. This award is not limited to Japanese citizens; people of all nationalities who fill the criteria for the Order of Culture award are eligible.

    The Order of Culture award is granted to the winner by the Emperor of Japan himself. This award is closely related to Emperor Showa’s love of learning and academic pursuits. During the ceremony, the new member of the Order of Culture will be provided with a gold badge that is shaped like an orange blossom. The center of the badge has three pieces of jade. The Order of Culture badge is suspended on a purple ribbon, a symbol of the award’s relation to the Emperor of Japan. The Order of Culture was first established in 1937.

  • Schools and Local Communities

    Culture Day is not just for people at universities and museums; many small towns observe the holiday at high schools or town centers through art exhibits and musical performances.

Places to Celebrate the Holiday

The largest cities in Japan are often ideal for observing Culture Day due to their museums, universities, and private art galleries. For people that do not know where to start, Tokyo is a good option. This city is home to the Imperial Palace and various museums such as the National Museum of Nature and Science and the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

Hakone is also a place that people frequently visit on Culture Day. At Hakone, the Feudal Lord’s Procession is performed each year on Culture Day. The Feudal Lord’s Procession is a parade that is centered around the music, culture, and clothing of Edo Japan.

Culture Day is a time for Japanese citizens to reflect on their freedom to learn and express their beliefs.