Japan National Holidays: Marine Day and Sports Day! | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Japan National Holidays: Marine Day and Sports Day!

By Tony Tao Jul 22, 2020

Thanks to the scheduling of this year’s national holidays, there are two holidays this week: Marine Day and Sports Day!  This means a 4 day weekend! But what do you know about the next two national holidays: Marine Day and Sports Day?

Marine Day and Sports Day: Japan’s National Holidays 

Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, beach image

Marine Day Thursday 22nd July 2021

Known in Japanese as Umi no Hi (海の日) and in English as Marine Day or Sea Day, it was first held in 1996, super recent compared to other Japanese national holidays. 

Usually Marine Day is held on the third Monday in July. But, similarly to 2020 last year, the holiday will be held in 2021 on Thursday 22 July, a change that was made to accommodate the Olympics in Tokyo – which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, but looks like it will be going forward with some changes this year in 2021.

Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, Hiroshima beach image

Marine Day’s origins date back to July 20, 1876, when the Meiji Emperor safely returned to Yokohama Port after a sea trip via Tohoku and Hokkaido. The expedition was commemorated more than 60 years later by naming the July 20 ‘Marine Memorial Day.’ It was only in 1995, however, that it became a national holiday devoted to the sea and its name was subsequently changed to its current title.

Japan is the only nation in the world to have a national holiday devoted to ocean blessing. Why? Well, maybe this is rooted in Japan’s deep connection with loving the land and the oceans – essential aspects of Shintoism. With Japan containing about 6,000 smaller islands, most of us can easily experience the leisure and health advantages of the ocean. Marine Day is devoted to nature among many other holidays, such as Greenery Day and Mountain Day.

Tokyo Celebration

  • You can treat your eyes to a dazzling display of lanterns at Odaiba Marine Park, which lines the foreground to the Rainbow Bridge.
  • Observing spectacular fireworks in Yokohama Port 
  • Some of the best seafront places to hit for beaches and ocean views are Odaiba, Yokohama, Kamakura, Enoshima and Chiba, all within an hour’s train ride from Tokyo JR Station.
  • Visiting one of Tokyo’s three Aquariums: Sumida, Sunshine or Tokyo Sea Life.

    Note: events or areas may be cancelled or closed due to COVID-19, please check the homepages before leaving home.
Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, Odaiba lantern festival image

In Tokyo, there is a Marine Day lantern festival held in Odaiba

Celebrate at Home

The COVID-19 situation is getting complicated in Japan. But you can still celebrate Umi no Hi at home with a fish or seafood meal, from unagi don grilled rice bowls and Temari sushi in Kyoto style to light summer choices like this tuna poke bowl or seafood salad.

Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, sushi image

Sports Day Friday 23 July 2021

Health and Sports Day (体育の日) is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle. In 2021, Sports Day was moved to the day of the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, sports day image

Health and Sports Day was first celebrated in commemoration of the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games on 10 October 1966. It was transferred to the second Monday of October 2000 following the Japan ‘s Happy Monday System (a law designed to create 3-day weekends for people who usually have a 5-day workweek).

Many schools, companies and government agencies are celebrating Health and Sports Day on this day to encourage fitness and a balanced lifestyle by organizing field days, known as 運動会 (School Sports Day).

Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, sports day image

Such field days mimic miniature Olympic games, complete with a torch-carrying and lighting ceremony and featuring many Olympic competitions such as the shot put 100 m sprint, and 4 by 100 m relay. They also have several non-Olympic activities, such as tug-of-war, obstacle course relays, ball tosses and wild games that the planners and participants themselves dream of.

On the other hand, almost all the cities open the city sports center for the residents coming and play sports for free. You can swim, hit the gym, play badminton, table tennis, basketball for free at the city sports centre on this day! 

Japan National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day, basketball image

Your Plans for National Holidays Marine Day and Sports Day in 2021

What are your plans this week? Have you found a way to enjoy these two national holidays from home? Whether it’s making some delicious seafood dishes for your family, or keeping up with the Olympics from the official broadcasters, we hope you can find a way to enjoy your 4 day weekend.

Want to know more about the history of the Olympics in Japan? Check out this article:

A Brief History of the Olympics in Japan


This article was originally published on July 22, 2020 and updated and republished on July 20, 2021.