It's Time to Celebrate Culture Day

By Ann Marie Coar
Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is not the only holiday celebrated in November. Culture Day, a national holiday in Japan, is observed on November 3.

The Japan National Tourist Organization states that Culture Day was created to emphasize the value of science and to show gratitude to those who have played a role in advancing Japanese culture.

According to Web Japan, on November 3, 1946, the present Constitution of Japan was formally announced. However, the Constitution did not take affect until May 3, 1947. Another national holiday, Constitution Memorial Day, commemorates this day. Both this holiday and Culture Day celebrate the ideals of love of peace and freedom.

In other historical significance, November 3 was also the birthday of Emperor Meiji, one of Japan’s most famous emperors.

Surprisingly, Japan almost always has good weather on November 3. According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, it has only rained three times in Tokyo on November 3 in the 32 years between 1965 and 1996.

Numerous cultural activities take place on Culture Day. Web Japan describes one of these events, the Order of Culture Awards ceremony, which honors people who have made great contributions to culture, science, or the arts. The event is held in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and the Emperor personally hands out the awards to the recipients. Past winners include tea master Sen Soshitsu and economist Hirofumi Uzawa. The award is not restricted to Japanese citizens; the three American astronauts from Apollo 11, who were the first men to land on the moon, have also received Order of Culture Awards.

Also, on this day, thousands of other awards are given to people who have made significant contributions to society and culture.

According to the Government of Japan’s Cabinet Office, the Order of Culture medal was created in 1937. The design of the medal is rich in symbolism. Three magadama, comet-shaped stones, are surrounded by five petals of a mandarin orange blossom. The mandarin orange tree is a symbol of eternity. Incorporating this plant in the medal shows that culture is timeless as well.

In addition to the Order of Culture Awards ceremony, many other festivals that promote the arts and tradition are held throughout Japan. According to Shizuko Mishima, a Japan travel correspondent, Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu, the Federal Lord’s Procession, is one of these celebrations. The event is held in Hakone. People parade around the town dressed in historical clothing and costumes from the Edo era, which was approximately 400 years ago.

Academic institutions also participate in Culture Day. The American School in Japan states that many Japanese universities and high schools hold special events on November 3. Students will often display their research projects or hold debate sessions in honor of the occasion.

Culture Day is a wonderful time for people to stop and celebrate Japanese culture and society, as well as those who have made significant contributions to the arts and science.