by

OK, obviously Japan doesn’t celebrate the same Thanksgiving that we do in America; America’s Thanksgiving is a cornucopia-filled holiday with a lot of traditions unique to the good ol’ US of A.

But even though Japan doesn’t have Thanksgiving the same way we understand it in the US, Japan still has a Thanksgiving holiday right around the same time. It’s called 勤労感謝の日, or Labor Thanksgiving Day, and it’s a national holiday.

It has the same roots as Thanksgiving here in the US – it was once a fall harvest festival, but has since changed in meaning. Nowadays, Labor Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrating workers in Japan.

How can you compare American Thanksgiving Day and Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day? What’s the same and what’s different? Let’s take a look:

How is Japanese Thanksgiving the Same?

Photo by Robert Barney

Being Thankful

Both American and Japanese Thanksgiving days both, obviously, focus on giving thanks. In America, it’s more about giving thanks in an abstract sense – giving thanks for the things that have happened to you, the people in your life, etc. – but in Japan, it’s a lot more specific.

In Japan, Labor Thanksgiving Day is about being thankful for workers who do their job and do it well. Sometimes you literally thank those people — school kids sometimes make thank you cards and gifts for municipal workers like police, firefighters, and hospital workers.

Photo by jojomelons

National Holiday

In both countries, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday. In the US, the president “pardons” a turkey, there’s a huge parade in New York City, a lot of businesses are closed, and government services are mostly shut down.

In Japan, it’s not quite as festive, but still very much a national holiday. Most businesses are still open on Labor Thanksgiving Day, but government services are closed down. There are little celebrations all over the country, but none with the spectacle of the celebrations in the US.

How is Japanese Thanksgiving Different?

No Turkey

Sorry Japanese people, but you don’t get enormous, heart-attack inducing feasts the way us Americans do. On the plus side, turkeys needn’t fear the annual genocide they face here in the US.

Photo by hiroaki maeda

Political Holiday

While you might get into some heated conversations with your relatives during Thanksgiving in the US (will somebody tell my uncle that the election is over?!), it’s generally a pretty apolitical holiday. It’s pretty hard to politicize big meals and families getting together.

Now Labor Thanksgiving Day isn’t an explicitly political holiday, but it definitely has political implications. Labor organizations across the country take the opportunity to have a conversation about the accomplishments of the labor movement, workers’ rights, etc..


So whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving Day in the US or Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan, have a good holiday!

  • ZXNova

    You spelled apolitcal in the last paragraphs.
    Also, Turkeys can fly. Just farmers turkey’s can’t.

  • testyal1

    And Britain doesn’t have thanksgiving at all.

    Which is fun.

  • HatsuHazama

    Let us reign tea over other countries!

  • CelestialSushi

    I think I’ve heard through the original “Iron Chef” program that about 80% of the Japanese (at the time of the program, that is) hadn’t tried turkey before. Ever. In fact, I don’t even know if they raise turkeys in Japan.

  • Bartender

    Just one question: is it a food-specific holiday over there as it is here in the US where we focus on turkey or is it just simply a holiday to appreciate workers?

  • lychalis

    we should have a thanksgiving day for being awesome. it should be a massive tea party!

  • ZXNova

    America and Canada are the countries that celebrate Thanksgiving. Japan doesn’t count cause it’s Thanksgiving is not in the same class as the US and Canada. (Which is mostly food related)

  • Emi

    Not sure if you were being sarcastic, but I like how we don’t have food focused national holidays in the UK. It’s always baffled me how Americans/Canadians can have “Christmas lunch” more than once a year. It must spoil Christmas day having the same meal within weeks of each-other. Then again, we do the Sunday lunch thing… =/

  • Emi

    Yep. The wild turkeys here fly. Maybe it’s city folk who think it’s a myth. =p

  • ジョサイア

    Or 4th of July :b

  • ジョサイア

    :/

  • ジョサイア

    I’ll help xD

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Yeah, it’s weird how Britain just skips from the 3rd to the 5th. At least they get to skip Mondays sometimes.

  • ジョサイア

    Skip Monday…I’m moving to Britain now :/

  • Reptic

    Most people have different meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, some things do overlap, but usually it’s different enough that it doesn’t “spoil” Christmas day.

  • Wendy

    Some japanese restaurants will offer Canadian and American thanksgiving. I made the mistake of thinking it would be feast-like (my only care was turkey not being the only meat option). Trying to cancel my spot in a group of 21 people (20 showed) was a pain, and the lady was trying to tell me I would have to pay for something I don’t eat. Apparently reservation cancellations are ungodly, and I can understand that for smaller restaurants may have gone out to purchase extra for your group, but the lack of flexibility providing 1 days notice made me take the less polite measure.

  • DAVIDPD

    LOL. The only difference is turey?! Haha…

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Wow, really? I guess that makes sense, but wouldn’t be something I would have thought much about.

  • shiro

    No food. Hardly any acknowledgement of the day, in fact.

  • shiro

    Sounds like Christmas is pretty food-focused for you then, if you’d allow it be spoiled by the meal. ;)

  • yello

    wild turkeys are all over the city

  • SamuraiAvenger

    もういい加減に「アメリカ人発想」で日本の物事を捉えるのを、おかしいと思わなきゃ。
    Tofuguの大部分のコラムは、記事を書き始める発想が、間違っている。

    “Portlandにはなぜ、日本の東北のなまはげの文化がないのか?”
    という発想で記事を書こうとすることと同じである。比較することに意味がない。

    こうした(実にくだらない)小さなことから「違い」や「違和感」を強調することから、“異文化への拒絶感”を生んでいることに気がつくべきだ。
    そうは思わないか、Hashiよ。

  • Lorinc Del Motte

    By bro and my aunts in Vancouver eat Mexican on Thanksgiving, although there isn’t any Mexican in my family.

  • Yuki

    I dont even know what thanksgiving is since it’s not celebrated in my country. I’ve only seen it in american tv shows though

  • max

    yoooo shots fired!!