Imagine you’re an American, let’s say Nikkei (foreign-born Japanese) or Japanese American, and you are now living in Japan. As the year approaches the end, you’re looking forward to Thanksgiving, except there is no turkey to be found.
Suddenly you realize that American traditions of eating cranberry sauce and creamed corn aren’t common in your new hometown. However, there is still a government-recognized holiday with the theme of giving thanks in Japan.
In comes Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan, most recently known as kinrōkanshahi 勤労感謝の日, a holiday celebrating the workers and the fruits of their labor, sans festivities. Established in 1948 after World War II, the holiday also celebrates expanded workers rights and fundamental human rights. Schoolchildren can be found writing thank you cards and giving gifts to municipal workers like police, firefighters, and hospital workers.
Since 678, Niiname-sai 新嘗祭 Rice Harvest Festival (the Japanese holiday that kinrōkanshahi evolved from) was celebrated by the Emperor of Japan to express gratitude for the currently fall season of bountiful harvests of crops. As an expression of his gratitude, he would offer new crops to the Shinto deities and would taste the year’s first rice harvest. With the influence of the American occupation after World War II, these ritual traditions were no longer made public and instead carried out in the Imperial Palace Shrines. Read more about this intense ritual here.
If you would like to celebrate Thanksgiving like they do in the United States, read here for some tips on where to find ingredients and items that you can usually find on the dinner table. In both the Japan and many parts of the world, this is a great time to enjoy the seasonal fruits, vegetables, and goodies that only come around this time of the year.
Thankfully (pun intended) while my family and I lived in Japan, we were able to acquire a turkey through my parent's restaurant. Mom knew how to make the sides since she grew stateside.