You may be aware that Thanksgiving is observed worldwide in nations like the United States, Brazil, Canada, Liberia, and Puerto Rico, but you might not be aware that there is also a Thanksgiving in Japan.

When rice was originally cultivated in Japan more than 2,000 years ago, Labor Day was preceded by a celebration called Niinamesai, also known as the Autumn Harvest Festival. Under the rule of the legendary Emperor Jimmu of Japan, the first Niinamesai ritual was conducted to honor the autumnal harvest of rice, wheat, barley, and beans. In a special ritual, the reigning Emperor Tenmu would sample the year’s rice for the first time. Between 667 and 686 AD, Niinamesai came to be more strongly associated with remembering the arduous work of the previous year. Japanese people refer to Thanksgiving as “Kinro Kansha no Hi,” which is officially known as Labor Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is not a religious festival in Japan. Instead, it is a widely observed national holiday, more analogous to US Labor Day, which celebrates the sacrifices made by workers. One of the most prevalent customs associated with Japanese Thanksgiving is for elementary school-aged kids to create cards or prepare presents to give to laborers, such as police officers, firefighters, and hospital staff, in appreciation of their dedication throughout the year.

In Japan, the event is typically marked as a peaceful public holiday with family outings to parks or green spaces and a simple meal.