5 Ways to ‘Get-to-Know’ Mountain Day (山の日) in Tokyo
What is Japan’s newest holiday about, and can we actually celebrate it in Tokyo?
With over 73% of Japan’s terrain being mountainous, Japan’s newest public holiday – Mountain Day – definitely seems like a fitting addition.
Created as a day to honour and give thanks to the blessings of the mountains, Mountain Day was officially announced in 2014, and first observed in 2016 after campaigns by various mountain-related groups. Mountain Day, or Yama no Hi (山の日) in Japanese, occurs annually on 11th August and now brings the total number of public holidays in Japan to 16 – more than any other G8 country.
Despite the Happy Monday System – which moved several of the public holidays to Mondays, creating three day weekends – Mountain Day takes place on the same date every year. To find out more about Japan’s newest holiday and how to adore the mountains from Tokyo – whatever the year – read on!
How Was the Date Chosen?
Before Mountain Day was officially passed as a national holiday, it was already being celebrated on 11th August in various places across Japan. Apparently, this date was chosen because the eighth month is denoted by the kanji ‘八’ – which resembles a mountain, and ‘11’ – which resembles two trees. Additionally, there are no other public holidays in August, so it was hoped that people would stop working to enjoy the mountains, or at the very least, boost spending in the economy.
Is Mountain Day Unique to Japan?
Worldwide, there are two other ‘Mountain Days’: a student celebration in the U.S where lessons are cancelled without prior warning and students head to the mountains for the day, and International Mountain Day on 11th December, which was created by the United Nations General Assembly to encourage sustainable development in the mountains.
How is Japan’s Mountain Day Celebrated?
Being such a new addition, there are no established customs to honour this day. Although, the general recommendation is to spend time connecting with, exploring and appreciating the mountains by hiking, walking or climbing.
How You Can Celebrate Mountain Day in Tokyo
- For us Tokyoites, hiking and nature-immersion may be most accessible in Mount Takao, western Tokyo. This tree-topped mountain is one of the easiest places to lap-up the highland scenery, and there are numerous trails available, with the most popular only taking 90 minutes. Other popular mountains near Tokyo include Mt. Mitake, Mt. Mito, Mt. Tsukuba and Mt. Mitsutoge.
- If you can’t get to the mountains but would still like to see them, why not view them from an observation desk? Bunkyo Civic Centre offers spectacular views across Shinjuku towards Mount Fuji – and it’s free. Don’t forget to check visibility in advance!
- A simple way to appreciate the blessings of the mountains is to visit an onsen. Perhaps you could visit one near home, or if you want to make a day of it, venture to Oedo Onsen Monogatari.
- You don’t have to be a professional to paint or draw. Said to lower stress, and improve creativity, sketching your favourite mountain is another way to commemorate Mountain Day. Why not unleash your creativity and invite some friends to join you?