Today is Ocean Day (Umi no hi / 海の日) in Japan. Ocean Day (also known as Marine Day or Sea Day) happens on the third Monday in July.
According to Wikipedia: “The day was known as Marine Memorial Day (海の記念日 umi no kinen bi) until 1996. Communications Minister Shozo Murata designated the holiday in 1942 to commemorate the Meiji Emperor and his 1876 voyage in the Meiji-Maru, an iron steamship constructed in England in 1874. The voyage included a trip around the Ou district, embarking on a lighthouse boat in Aomori, and a brief stop in Hakodate before returning to Yokohama on July 20 of that year. “Marine Day” was declared a national holiday in 1995 as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan.“.
Ocean Day has always been one of my favourite Japanese holidays because I love the sea. While living in Nagoya, I was lucky enough to attend the Minato Matsuri on Ocean Day two years running (2008, 2009). The Minato Matsuri is a parade and fireworks festival which is held at Nagoya Port. If you happen to be in Nagoya on the day, it’s definitely worth attending (although you should take note that trying to use public transport at the end of the festival is really difficult!). There’s a little mention of the festival here, but basically you just head down to the port around midday and you can’t miss it.
Last year I spent Ocean Day on the beach with my friends, and we had our own fireworks festival. It was really fun! As far as I know, it’s legal to do that in Japan – I don’t think you can go around setting off fireworks on the beach in England, though!
Fireworks seem to be very much a summer thing in Japan, whereas in England I’ve always associated them with autumn and Guy Fawkes Night. If you’re in Japan and you like fireworks, you should check out this guide to finding a fireworks festival: Surviving in Japan. All of the fireworks displays I have seen in Japan have been absolutely spectacular.
Getting back to Ocean Day, in the wake of the March 11th tsunami, I wonder if Japanese people’s perception of the sea has changed at all. Will people (especially those in Tohoku) still celebrate “the blessings of the ocean”? I know I perceive the sea a little differently now. Having seen what it’s capable of, I respect its power a little more. When I see a wave come crashing onto the shore, I do think about those black waves destroying everything in their path on March 11th. The sea is not our enemy, but I think we need to remain aware of just how strong it is.
But let’s not think about the past today. Japan has a very positive attitude towards rebuilding the Tohoku region, and it’s important to keep that in mind. The ocean is beautiful, and it gives us sushi – for this we should be grateful!
Happy Ocean Day, everyone! (*^^)v