November 23rd is a double holiday in Japan! Yesterday was Thanksgiving in America, and today is Labour Thanksgiving Day in Japan! Here's a quick breakdown of today's holidays:
勤労感謝の日 (Kinrou Kansha no Hi):
This is the nationally-recognized holiday on this day. It was started in 1948, following the signing of the post-war Japanese Constitution. The Japanese Constitution is a document that sets forth human rights guidelines, especially regarding labour and the rights of individuals. For this reason, some cities have Labour Festivals to give thanks to social servants such as police, paramedics, and many others for their hard work! It is a day focused on thoughts of human rights, the value of a person's work, and grateful attitudes towards those who are perhaps not receiving as much as they are worth. There is a separate Labour Day on May 1st for trade unions.
The original holiday on this day, no longer officially celebrated. Niiname-sai is an ancient Shinto harvest festival celebrated as far back as the mythical Jinmu-tennou, although it was the later Tenmu-tennou (667-686CE) who is credited for formalizing the event. The festival centres around thankfulness for a year's worth of hard work, and the dedication of crop yields to their respective gods. For example, Inari-sama is the god of rice, whose origins may stem as far back as the 5th century (the 600s, Tenmu-tennou's time). This harvest festival centres on six crops: rice, barley, foxtail millet, barnyard millet, proso millet, and beans. It is said that the Emperor still celebrates this day privately, likely as a matter of ritual. On this day, he will taste the years' "first rice".