Marine Day (海の日): How and Why Japan Pay Homage to the Oceans

Japan is the only nation to have a public holiday dedicated to the oceans. So, why is Marine Day important and how can we all celebrate it together?

Posted by on July 17, 2017 – Life in Japan
Japan Ocean Day

When the third Monday of July comes around, it’s time for Marine Day – a public holiday dedicated to the ocean and the blessings that it brings to all of us in Japan.

Known in Japanese as Umi no Hi (海の日), and also as Sea Day or Ocean Day in English, Marine day was first observed in 1996, making it a toddler in comparison to most of Japan’s national holidays. Although this holiday is still relatively new, there is no shortage of ways that you can pay homage to all of the world’s oceans, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

This year Marine Day falls on 17th July, read on to learn more about the history of this holiday and how you can get involved.

How Did Marine Day Start?

The roots of Marine Day stretch back to 20th July 1876, when the Meiji Emperor returned to the Port of Yokohama safely after a sea voyage across Tohoku and Hokkaido. Over 60 years later, the expedition was commemorated by naming the 20th July ‘Marine Memorial Day’. However, it was only in 1995 that it became a national holiday dedicated to the sea, and its name was aptly changed to its current title.

Thanks to the Happy Monday System, Marine Day officially moved from 20th July to the third Monday of the month; allowing Japan to appreciate the oceans over a three-day weekend.

Why is Gratitude for the Oceans Important in Japan?

Undeniably, water is vital for our survival. So it’s probably logical that we should all be grateful for our seas, lakes and rivers. But, how many of us actually take the time to intentionally practice gratitude for the oceans?

Studies have shown that if we take time to practice gratitude intentionally it can make us happier, lower our blood pressure and more. Yet, Japan is the only country in the world that has a public holiday dedicated to the blessing of the oceans. Why? Well, perhaps this is rooted in Japan’s deep connection with loving the land and the oceans – which are important aspects of Shintoism. With Japan being comprised of around 6,000 smaller islands, the recreational and health benefits of the ocean can be easily observed by most of us. Marine Day is amongst several other holidays dedicated to nature, such as Greenery Day and Mountain Day.

How is Marine Day Celebrated?

Across the country, one of the most popular ways to celebrate Marine Day is to visit the sea and swim, snorkel, surf or dive. Another way to spend time at the sea is ‘mud-ball throwing’, which has become quite popular over the last few years. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can literally give something back to the oceans by throwing dried mud-balls filled with ‘Effective Micro-organisms” (EMs) into the water. These balls help to break-down and eliminate sea grime. Or for something slightly more refined, the national aquariums host special water-related events.

How You Can Enjoy Marine Day in/around Tokyo

  1. At Odaiba Marine Park, you can treat your eyes to a spectacular array of lanterns that line the foreground to the Rainbow Bridge.
  2. Head down to Yokohama Port, where Marine Day officially began, for fireworks.
  3. For beaches and ocean views, some of the easiest sea-front locations to reach are Odaiba, Yokohama, Kamakura, Enoshima and Chiba, which are all accessible within a one-hour train ride from Tokyo JR Station.
  4. Visit one of Tokyo’s three Aquariums: Sumida, Sunshine or Tokyo Sealife.
  5. If you prefer to avoid crowds, a stroll along the Sumida, Kanda-gawa or Arakawa River may work better for you.