Monday, June 8, 2009

Umi no Hi -Marine Day-

Surrounded by the colorful lights and handsome buildings of Tokyo, it's sometimes hard to forget that Japan is an island nation. However, I can't begin to stress the importance of the ocean borders on the country's culture, environment, economy and agriculture. So influential are Japan's oceans, that the nation celebrates "Marine Day", or Umi no hi every summer.

Established as a national memorial day in 1941, it was further declared as a public holiday in 1996 as a day of gratitude to appreciate the benefits reaped from the ocean and pray for the sea-faring nation's further prosperity. In other words, another reason for the people of Japan to kick back, relax, and take a break from the sweltering heat of Japan's summers.

If you visit Japan during Marine Day, which falls July 20th this year, expect to encounter crowds trying to take advantage of a rare three-day weekend. Appropriate to the holiday, many people rush to beaches, aquariums, pools, or depending on where you are in Japan, certain cities and towns will throw big festivals and extravagant firework displays.

In Tokyo, don't miss the city's biggest water attraction at Shinagawa Aquarium, where you can greet the local dolphin, seal and otter stars in addition to all the other fascinating sea creatures housed in the aquarium's 1,800 tons of water. This year, right in time for Marine Day, a new jellyfish section is scheduled to open, where four different species and nearly 100 jellyfish will call home. Also, from Marine Day weekend onwards, the aquarium will extend their opening hours to accommodate the projected increase of visitors.

Being a modern holiday, there are no traditions or official ceremonies associated with this Marine Day. Therefore, along with the rest of the nation, choose your own way to celebrate the shores that have shaped modern-day Japan.

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