Japan’s Marine Day is a celebration of all that the ocean provides to Japan — food, jobs, protection and recreation.
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It probably shouldn’t be surprising that an island nation that is surrounded by the deep blue sea would honor the ocean and its many amazing creatures with a national holiday.
Marine Day is a relatively new holiday that is held every year on the third Monday in July. It was designated as a holiday in 1995 and was first officially observed in 1996. Marine Day was made a Monday holiday as part of Japan’s “Happy Monday System.” This system moved some of the country’s holidays around to Mondays to create more three-day weekends for its notoriously hard-working citizens. Marine Day is also sometimes referred to as Ocean Day, Sea Day or — in Japanese — as “Umi no Hi”
Japan’s Marine Day is not the same as World Oceans Day, which was created by a United Nations resolution. Although both days are held to bring awareness to the state of the world’s oceans, World Ocean Day is held on June 8th each year.
Because Japan’s Marine Day is the first national holiday of the summer, its timing makes it a perfect day to head to the beach for a day of relaxation or swimming. Marine Day has also become associated with the first day of summer. Because Marine Day is a relatively new holiday, there are no real traditional ceremonies held in its honor. However, there are many special events held in honor of Marine Day throughout the country at venues such as aquariums.
For example, in Odaiba, Tokyo, volunteers light hundreds of beautiful paper lanterns and lay them out on the sand in colorful patterns and intricate shapes as part of the Paper Lantern Festival, which is held on Marine Day in Odaiba Marine Park. This is a very special festival that offers great opportunities for photographs. The colorful patterns look especially stunning with Tokyo’s famous Rainbow Bridge in the background.
Originally known as Marine Memorial Day or Marine Commemoration Day, this holiday came into existence in 1941 and honored the day that Japan’s 122nd emperor, Meiji the Great, returned to the port of Yokohama in 1876 from a trip to Hokkaido. So, not surprisingly, this port plays host to a number of commemorative events, including an annual fireworks show.
Northern Okinawa also hosts a number of events in honor of Marine Day, including a large fishing competition.
Marine Day is also used as a time to bring awareness to the general health of the world’s oceans and Japan’s role in keeping the seas clean. In that vein, many seaside communities host beach cleanup days on this holiday.
Other communities, including Okinawa, celebrate Marine Day by creating EM Mudballs. These balls are made of dried mud and “Effective Microorganisms” (EM), which are then thrown into large bodies of water to eliminate sludge and slime. Japanese citizens across the country create and toss thousands of these balls for Marine Day each year.