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Japanese Culture Day: Everything You Need To Know

japanese culture day

Japanese culture day (Bunka no Hi) is celebrated every year on November 3rd. The Japanese national festival, culture day, is celebrated to celebrate art, culture and academic triumphants.

Read on to find out everything about Japanese culture day. 

How well do you know the place you live in? Have you done all the touristy things, or have you put it away for “some day”? Do you know the artists in your town or the beautiful pieces of art that are created?

Sometimes we could have lived in a place for many years without understanding its history or culture. Japan makes sure its people know about the culture of the country by designating a special day once a year to learn and explore. 

Not just any other holiday, the Japanese Culture Day is when artists, scholars and performers of the country are honoured by promoting various art forms. 

Full of colour, music and festivities conducted all over the country, this is a day for getting to know all the popular Japanese artists and scholars.

Japanese Culture Day

History of Japanese Culture Day or Bunka No Hi

Japanese Culture Day is held on November 3rd every year. In fact, the entire week, from November 1st to the 7th is considered Japanese Culture Week with a special focus on the 3rd. 

Many parts of the country take the opportunity to showcase Japanese culture throughout the week with a lot of pomp and fun.

Japanese Culture Day or Bunka no hi has a long history. It was first celebrated in the year 1948 when the Japanese constitution was announced after the war ended. It was meant to signify the Japanese’ love for peace and freedom and promote the same. 

This day is also appropriately called “Constitution Day”. 

japanese culture day

According to its history, Japanese culture day was celebrated right from the 20th century. Back then, it was called “Tencho-Setsu” during the rule of Emperor Meiji as this day was his birthday. 

But, after his death, it was not celebrated until the year 1912. From 1912, the day was declared a national holiday again and called “Meiji Setsu” in honour of the beloved Emperor Meiji. 

Since 1948, it has been called “Japanese Culture Day” or “Bunka No Hi”.

Being a statutory holiday, if Nov 3rd happens to fall on a Sunday, the following Monday is declared a holiday and celebrated with the same gusto.

How Japanese Culture Day is celebrated

The Japanese Culture Day is a day when artists and scholars are recognised for their contribution to society in several fields. 

A lot of events take place on the day, ranging from special performances, parades, exhibitions to award ceremonies organised and hosted by the local governments. 

The Japanese look forward to these events eagerly and it is widely covered by the newspapers and television channels across the nation. 

Awarding the Order of Ceremony Award on Japanese Culture Day

This is one of the main events of the Japanese Culture Day, as it highlights and honours the country’s best artists and scholars. This ceremony was first conducted in the year 1937 by the then Prime Minister, Hiroyuki Hirota. 

Everybody who has made a significant contribution to the fields of arts, culture, sports, literature, science or technology is recognised and bestowed an award during this ceremony. 

However, to be eligible and to qualify for the award, the candidate should have already been given the “Person of Cultural Merit” award. 

Ministers of the respective fields nominate the candidates for the Order of Ceremony Award.

The recipients of the award are personally congratulated and acknowledged by the Emperor in the Imperial Palace. 

This is considered as one of the highest levels of honour that can be bestowed on a citizen. Some of the well known people who have received this award is the popular fashion designer Issey Miyake, and the most reputed conductor, Seiji Ozawa. 

Though the majority of the award recipients are Japanese citizens, the country has also recognised many Nobel laureates, artists and scholars from the rest of the world. 

The winners can refuse the award if they choose to, as well. One of the people who refused the Order of Ceremony award was the well known Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe.

This ceremony is widely telecast and appears on the national news as well. 

Meiji Shrine Autumn Festival

For some real fun, you must head to the Meiji Shrine to watch the Meiji Shrine Autumn Festival. This is a festival which goes on for about 3 days in honour of the Emperor Meiji. What sets this apart is that this shrine only has the best performers of the nation performing here. 

This means you are definitely in for an audio visual treat without a doubt. Some of these performers and performances occur only during Japanese Culture Week, so this is an event that you simply cannot skip. 

You will witness lots of martial arts events and several cultural performances. One of the best performances is the Bugaku. This is a dance that was traditionally performed only for the aristocrats and the elites of the society. 

Another interesting performance is the Kyogen. This is a comic theatre that dates back to the 14th century. 

It goes hand in hand with Noh, another dance drama performance from the same era. Aikido is a self defence martial art that is unique to Japan, and this is something that is not to be missed. 

For some more quick and adrenaline sparking activity, watch the Yabusame, where Japanese horseback archers perform dressed in the traditional Kamakura period costumes and attire. 

Those who love music will absolutely enjoy the Hogaku, a beautiful rendition of Japanese traditional music. 

japanese culture day events

ACA National Arts Festival

The Agency of Cultural Affairs, or ACA for short, conducts its own set of performances to further spread the work of Japan’s talented artists and scholars. 

Apart from the performances, there is also an award ceremony which recognises new talent to encourage creativity in the society and among the people. 

Here, you will be able to enjoy plenty of dances, music and theatre, and the artists are usually from the fields of media and entertainment. 

Tokyo Jidai-Matsuri and Shirasagi No-Mai

The Festival of the Ages or the Jidai-Matsuri is the highlight of Tokyo during the Japanese Culture Day. This is a historical parade that takes place on the streets of Asakusa. 

This parade is something many flock to watch as it recreates the history of Tokyo and showcases its culture. Not a simple one by any means, this parade has about 1600 volunteers who dress up in historical and cultural costumes and clothes to represent the various eras. 

The aim of this parade is to establish Tokyo as the cultural and historical hub of the country. 

Jidai-Matsuri is not the only popular event held in Tokyo for the culture day celebrations. 

Another famous event that many never miss is the Shirasagi No-Mai or the White Heron Dance. As you can guess from the name, this involves dancers dressed up with white wings, representing herons. 

This is also a parade cum dance where, apart from the dancers, there are baton twirlers, musicians and bird feeders. This event is not unique to Japanese Culture Day, though. It is also performed during the Golden Week. 

How You Can Join The Japanese Culture Day Celebrations

If you are an expat living in Japan, or if you happen to travel to Japan during the Japanese culture day, you might want to join in with the celebrations. 

Take advantage of the free entry for most Japanese museums on this day since it is meant to spread awareness of the Japanese arts and culture. Explore the museums to your heart’s content and learn all about the traditions of the beautiful country. 

Visit the different cities where events and performances are conducted. Some places have these going for more than just one day, giving you time to plan your week. 

Even if you’re not in Japan during the Bunka no hi, you can learn about the Japanese culture and experience it. Japan recognises every little bit of art, so you can dabble in the arts that appeal to you as a start. 

Maybe think about trying your hand at Japanese arts and crafts, music and dances. With so many video tutorials, it’s not difficult to dabble in fine arts and performing arts. 

japanese culture day activities

One of the easiest and most interesting things to try your hand in is Origami. Origami is a delicate art form that you can explore, starting with the easiest designs and moving to the more complicated ones. 

Decorate your home with lots of origami birds, animals and other designs to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture of celebrating art. Play some mesmerising Japanese music in the background, sway to the sounds, close your eyes and be transported to Japan. 

Rustle up some delicious Japanese food in your kitchen, trying out some new dishes and unique flavours. There is no one right way to join the Japanese Culture Day Celebrations. 

Most importantly, the true essence of the Japanese Culture Day and Week which should not be forgotten is togetherness, unity, peace and freedom. Make sure you share your celebrations with your family, friends and loved ones to truly celebrate Bunka no hi. 

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