Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Giving Thanks for the Ocean's Blessings

The soft glow of candlelight and sunset create a magical atmosphere at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo on Marine Day. [Photo/Xinhua News Agency]

We just celebrated Umino-hi "海の日" which translates into "Marine Day".

Umino-hi is the one of Japan's national holidays. First established in 1995, it arrives on the third monday of July, encouraging gratitude toward the sea and hopes for its future bounties.

Japan is, of course, surrounded by water - the Japan Sea, Pacific Ocean, East China Sea, and Sea of Okhotsk. This has provided us with endless resources and transportation since ancient time. When traveling in Japan, you'll find each sea has given rise to unique cultures, a wonderful variety.

Japan has 47 prefectures, primarily called ken "県", but there are four exceptions - the To "都" of Tokyo-to, Fu "府" of Kyoto-fu, Oosaka-fu and the Do"道" of Hokaido. Nearly all - 39 - of these prefectures face the sea, while only eight are inland. Thus, the sea has a profound impact upon our nation.

As Araiguma likes to point out, "the Japanese work hard, but they sure like to party!" It's true: Japan has 15 national holidays a year. Japanese companies provide paid vacation time on Marine Day, but most people don't take it all, instead electing to take off just one or two days.

Most bosses hate this, as this custom impedes the use of paid vacation time, so japan has a lot of national holidays. In a few major companies, administrators monitor the use of paid vacation time, compelling some employees to work on Saturday instead of the national holiday.

When Mimi was born, there was a Marine Day on July 20th, but no holidays the whole month of July, so she thinks that's why the holiday was set up! Now June is the sole month with no national holday in Japan.

If you do choose to stay in Tokyo instead of visiting the seaside or mountains during the holiday, Mimi recommends visitiing the department stores for summer clothes bargqain shopping, particularly the massive Isetan and Takashimaya department stores in Shinjjuku. And of course, she says, Ginza is wonderful too.

It might melt your credit card, but it will certainly boost the economy!

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