UMI-NO HI, OR JAPANESE MARINE DAY
Umi-no Hi is one of Japanese national holidays, celebrated to express gratitude for the gifts of the sea and hope for kindness from the element in the future. Every year, the Japanese gather on the sunny beaches of coastal cities to celebrate Umi-no Hi during various festivals.
Marine Day in Japan
Even though it was only in 1996 that the Marine Day became a national holiday, its history dates back to the Meiji era. In 1876, Emperor Meiji went on a cruise on a ship named Meiji Maru. He ended his expedition through the Tahou region in Yokohama on 20 July. To commemorate this event, 20 July has been celebrated as Umi-no Hi, that is the day of the sea, the ocean and the navy, since 1941. In 1996, it became a national holiday and the first day off work in the summer season. When Happī Mandē Seido (the Happy Monday System) was introduced to the Japanese calendar, Umi-no Hi was moved to the third Monday of July.
Marine Day in Japan
Seas and oceans have been an incredibly important element of Japan's identity for ages. As an island country, it owes a considerable part of its economic and cultural achievements to the surrounding waters. For generations, they have been a source of food but they also completely isolated Japan from the world, allowing its unique culture to thrive. So no wonder that in time the sea day became a national holiday. The July date of Umi-no Hi coincides with an official beginning of the summer, which is why many Japanese cities organise summer festivals and seasonal attractions.
One of the most attractive seaside celebrations is the Odaiba Lantern Festival in the Tokyo Bay. Lit after dark, paper lanterns illuminate the beach with tiny pink, blue, yellow and green spots. Their luminous chains form an enchanting composition together with the Rainbow Bridge, highlighted against the Tokyo skyline with colourful lights. In many Japanese cities Umi-no Hi are crowned with firework displays. This unusual show can also be admired above the Tohyo harbour – in the place where Emperor Meiji finished his famous journey.
Caring about the purity of sea waters
The Japanese also show their gratitude to seawater by caring about its natural purity. The holiday is accompanied by events during which the residents throw purifying balls of dried mud into the water. The effective microorganisms (EM) contained there help remove harmful contaminants from the sea bottom.
Japan is probably the only country in the world where the Marine Day is celebrated as a national holiday and a day off work. It is not surprising – after all, the culture of the Islanders is closely connected with the water of the seas and oceans, so it is understandable that they want to thank the nature for all it has done for them. But Umi-no Hi is more than just an opportunity to have fun and enjoy the beginning of the summer – it is a time to ponder the needs of the sea balance endangered by harmful contaminants.