You Know What, Japan Has Marine Day
Do you know that Japan has Marine Day? Marine Day (海の日 umi no hi in Japanese) is one of Japan’s fifteen national holidays. It was designated a national holiday in 1995 and it was first observed in 1996. Earlier on, Marine Day was observed on July 20, but the modifications to the public holidays in 2003 (Heisei 15), collectively called Happy Monday System, moved the holiday to the third Monday of July, starting in 2004. The Happy Monday System legislation was designed to ensure that a public holiday does not fall on Sunday. In 2015, Marine Day comes on July 20.
The National Holidays Act explicitly states its purpose of ‘appreciating the blessings of the sea and wishing for prosperity of Japan as a maritime nation’. As its neighbor, Korea has Marine Day on May 31, and the US designated its Marine Day as May 22. As stated in a document provided by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), Japan is the only country in the world that has designated Marine Day as a national holiday.
1. Marine Day in Japan
There was Marine Memorial Day (海の記念日 in Japanese) until they came up with Marine Day as a national holiday. Marine Memorial Day dated back to the Meiji period. Communications Minister Shozo Murata designated the day in 1941 to commemorate the Meiji Emperor’s 1876 voyage in the Meiji-Maru, an iron steamship constructed in Scotland in 1874. The voyage included a trip around the Tohoku region, embarking on the lighthouse boat and returning to Yokohama on July 20 of that year.
The Meiji-Maru was later used as a training ship by Tokyo Nautical School (currently, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology), and is currently preserved on the Etchujima Campus of the University.
2. Events commemorating Marine Day now legally designated
In addition to the afore-mentioned National Holidays Act, Basic Act of Ocean Policy, which was enacted in 2007 (Heisei 19), stipulates in its Article 13 that “The State and the local governments shall endeavor, on the Ocean Day as stipulated in Article 2 of the National Holidays Act (Act No. 178 of 1948), to hold the events that enable the citizens to have better understanding and deeper interests of the oceans.”
Since 1996 that saw the enactment of Marine Day, the twelve days from July 20 through 31 has been designated as Fortnight of Sea. During the period, Maritime Bureau of MLIT has worked with local governments etc. to promote ideas related to oceans.
Starting in 2003 (Heisei 15), the twelve days in commemoration of Marine Day was increased to one whole month. In order to enlighten the national people on the importance of oceans and bring wider publicity to Marine Day, one entire month including Marine Day and stretching from July 1 through 31 was designated as Marine Month.
In the efforts led by Maritime Bureau of MLIT in partnership with related government ministries, local governments, and organizations related to maritime affairs, Sea Festa spearheads a variety of nationwide events related to oceans. Traditional events, previously presented, are no longer available, but major ports and marine facilities around the country offer special events, water sports, water shows, and cultural activities related to oceans.
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