Holiday Themed Content outside of the U.S. – Japanese versus American Thanksgiving

Japanese versus American Thanksgiving

What is Japanese Thanksgiving and how is it different from American Thanksgiving?

Japanese versus American Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving holiday is widely celebrated in America. Thanksgiving is celebrated around the same time each year but will always be the fourth Thursday of November. This year, 2019, Thanksgiving lands on November 22. The origin of the Thanksgiving holiday started as a harvest festival and it was just a simple gathering. According to history, upon the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered a loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. However, with the help of 91 Indians, the rest of the Pilgrims survived the severe weather and was able to yield a bountiful harvest in 1621. To commemorate and celebrate this joyous occasion,  these Pilgrims hosted a traditional English festival which lasted for three days. This event united the Pilgrims and natives in a Thanksgiving observance. During the day of Thanksgiving, most of the Brick-and-Mortar stores are closed. People nowadays look forward to being with their family and friends on Thanksgiving but the more exciting part is the long tradition of Black Friday Sales.


While in Japan, a holiday feast is not observed, Japanese observe this national holiday known as the Labor Thanksgiving Day (kinro kansha no hi 勤労感謝の日). This day falls on annually on November 23. According to Japanese history, this day became a holiday in 1948 as a day for Japanese citizens to express their gratitude to one another for their hard work throughout the year. Similar to the American history this Labor Thanksgiving day started as an ancient ritual called Niinamesai 新嘗祭 (Harvest Festival).Japanese Thanksgiving

The history of this Harvest Festival dates back hundreds of years ago. The first written content on this festival was claimed to be available in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicle of Japan). The origin of this festival is believed to a ritual where rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago. In the Meiji period which is during 1868-1912, this Harvest Festival (Niinamesai) was recognized as a national holiday.

According to Japan’s constitution, Labor Thanksgiving Day was recognized as a day to observe fundamental human rights and this movement was greatly expanded in the postwar Constitution after WWII. While Labor Thanksgiving day is observed as a national holiday in Japan, the Imperial family celebrates the Niinamesai privately.

A similarity between the two countries?

Yes! In Japan, people celebrate this day shopping. While all government offices and banks are closed, the majority of the shops and restaurants will stay open in Japan. There are also festivals and events going on around the country. For example, Nagano Labour Festival is one of the largest events on this day, which is to celebrate the environment, peace, and human rights. While I haven’t experienced this day in Japan, according to the Japanese shop blog, Nagano Ebisuko Fireworks Festival coincides with Labour Thanksgiving Day, marking the end of the Ebisuko Festival.

In the U.S., people look forward to Black Friday deals. Now, more and more companies are advancing their deals with labeling them as “pre-Black Friday deals” and to extend that offer, they call it “Cyber Monday” deals. 

While there are not many countries that celebrate Thanksgiving holidays, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the difference between Asia and North America celebrates this day.

That’s all for now! Happy Thanksgiving! *Gobble Gobble*

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