A public holiday in Japan since 1948 but celebrated for centuries before, Kinrō Kansha No Hi is the Labour Thanksgiving Day. In its earliest form, it was known as Niinamesai (Imperial Harvest Festival) – a day for the Imperial family to pay tribute and express gratitude for a generous harvest. Those who worked hard on the land to bring crops, especially rice, to fruition received special thanks from their communities. As the Japan of today is less dependent on agriculture, the festival has evolved to include an appreciation for all those who work hard, regardless of industry.
An alternative name for the festival is Hōnen Matsuri, with Hōnen meaning ‘rich harvest’ and Matsuri meaning ‘festival’. Many Japanese people visit a shrine on this day to give thanks for the successful harvest received that year and to pray to Kami (spirits) for a plentiful harvest next year. The harvest festival has a strong association with fertility and renewal. This is epitomised by the spring Hōnen Matsuri celebration at Tagata Shrine in Aichi prefecture, which includes a procession with a giant wooden phallus freshly carved from hinoki (cypress).
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