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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in Japan Series on JapanesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Japanese holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 22: Labor Thanksgiving Day.
November 23rd is Labor Thanksgiving Day. The day was established to value hard work, celebrate productivity, and to express thanks to other people. Originally, a ritual called 新嘗祭 (Niinamesai) was held to give thanks for the blessings of crops, and it remains to this day.
Now, before we go into greater detail, do you know the answer to this question: who performs the 新嘗祭 (Niinamesai) ritual?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
As time progressed, Japanese society not only gave thanks to agricultural workers, but also to laborers in general. This led to the custom of recognizing the importance of work during this holiday. On this day, each member of the family thanks the others for the hard work completed over the course of the year.
Children in particular look back at their everyday lives and appreciate the work of their parents because they are able to live so comfortably. They express their gratitude to their parents, who work so hard. Children express these feelings not only by writing a letter or giving a present, but also by helping out with the housework—something they don't normally do. They often cook, and together with their siblings, struggle along in the kitchen. This sight makes parents very happy.
Among those who work as members of society, some treat themselves to something special, such as buying something they normally wouldn't or eating out at a restaurant. In particular, since this time of year is neither too hot nor too cold and the weather is often sunny, many people take advantage of the national holiday to go on a day trip. Those who do so may feel refreshed and approach the next day with renewed vitality.
Here’s our fun fact for the day! After the Second World War and in accordance with the policy of occupation authorities, the celebration of production and Labor Day, to express thanks for hard work, were combined into one national holiday. This officially became known as Labor Thanksgiving Day.
Now it's time to answer the quiz question: who performs the 新嘗祭 (Niinamesai) ritual?
The correct answer is the Emperor. In Japan, which has strong agricultural ties, since ancient times there has been a custom of thanking the gods for the crops. In addition to this, the annual harvest became an important reserve for the country as a means to feed the people for the entire year. Therefore, the Emperor makes offerings of food, such as rice and beans, that were produced during the year to the gods, on behalf of the people. Even the Emperor himself expresses gratitude for the food that has been produced, by eating the offering.
Well listeners, how was this lesson?
Did you learn something new?
In your country, when do you take time to respect and appreciate others' work?
Please leave us a comment telling us at JapanesePod101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!