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Celebrating Marine Day in Japan

What is Marine Day?

Marine Day (‘Umi no hi’) is an annual holiday in Japan which takes places on the third Monday of July. Established in 1941, the national holiday was initially known as Marine Memorial Day which celebrated the Meiji Emperor’s return to the Port of Yokohama in 1876. 120 years later, the day was re-established as an opportunity to appreciate and give thanks to the ocean, earning an apt new name. As a part of Japan’s ‘Happy Monday System’, Marine Day became a ‘Monday Holiday’ in 2003. Japan wanted to provide more 3-day weekends to reward its hard-working citizens, giving them a chance to spend time with family and friends whilst appreciating the beauty of Japan.

In 2020, the holiday was moved to Thursday 23rd July to accommodate the the 2020 Summer Olympics. Despite the postponement of the Olympics, the government have left this in place and agreed to similarly push back the date of Marine Day in 2021 to Thursday 22nd July.

How is Marine Day Celebrated in Japan?

japanese beach sea day
Takenohama Beach - Image Courtesy of JR Rail Pass

Beside the Sea

Midsummer in Japan is hot and humid, but as the rainy season draws to a close, citizens find the best way to appreciate the holiday is to make a visit to the Japanese coastline. As a relatively modern national holiday, there are no traditions to be honoured on this day. However, many aquariums and swimming pools organise special events relating to the ocean, all to involve individuals in Marine Day celebrations.

Though celebrations vary from town-to-town, a common part of the day is a mud-throwing event. Of course, this isn’t just any given mud, but dried mud containing Effective Microorganisms (EMs) which help to breakdown and reduce natural sea grime and generally benefit the ocean water. Elsewhere, communities organise clean-up missions of their local beaches. Many choose to help the ocean as a way of celebrating Marine Day, getting to spend the day with family and friends whilst giving back to nature.

City Celebrations

One of the most popular events on Marine day involves lighting lanterns on the sea front in Odaiba, Tokyo. The Marine Day Lantern Festival involves volunteers setting up hundreds of paper lanterns, and each year they are laid out in a particular design. In recent years, the lantern formation celebrated Tokyo City becoming the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Crowds of people come to see the array of lanterns and the wonderful view beyond the lanterns. Though the event has been cancelled this year (2020) it’s well worth experiencing this festival for yourself in the future!  

marine day odaiba lanterns
Lantern display for Marine Day - Odaiba, Tokyo

Fireworks light up skies all across Japan, and the port of Yokohama (where the Emperor ended his journey in 1876) hosts a special annual firework display to commemorate the day. Alongside the spectacular display of fireworks, you can expect a colourful parade of music and floats. People love celebrating the holiday by coming together and enjoy beautiful weather and vibrant evening festivals. Even without traditions of this national holiday, many of Japan's citizens choose to celebrate it in the same way each year, with one or more of these activities.

the japanese shop marine day gifts
Click the links below for Marine Day marvels or visit our shop for more unique Japanese gifts!

If reaching the Japanese shores isn't likely for you this year, why not appreciate Marine Day your own way with some of our fantastic ocean wave-inspired gifts:

  1. Rough Sea at Naruto Japanese Print
  2. Seikaiha Traditional Japanese Chopsticks
  3. Japanese Kimono Wave Long Black
  4. Wave and Swallows Hiroshige Woodblock Print
  5. Ocean Waves Japanese Print
  6. Seikaiha Japanese Ramen Noodle Bowl Set

We have plenty more authentic Japanese gift options available on our website at The Japanese Shop. If you enjoyed this blog post, why not check out some of our other articles on traditions, tourist destinations and much more at our blog, and 'like' our Facebook page to keep updated!

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