Dive in! It’s Marine Day in Japan!
It makes sense that Japan has a national holiday dedicated to the ocean.
This is an island nation in which almost all the population live along narrow coastal strips, mostly on the Pacific; the country is an archipelago stretching from the frigid north to the sweltering south; the favourite food is fish; seaweed is eaten like lettuce.
And so the third Monday in July is Marine Day.
The holiday stands in memory of a voyage by the emperor Meiji in Japan’s first iron steamship in 1876 but has since become a celebration of ocean-going culture and the central place of the sea and its bounty in the life of Japan.
July is hot with the temperatures climbing into the high thirties almost every day, so what better time to cool off in the ocean waves?
This Monday holiday makes for a very welcome three-day break near the hottest time of year, and Japan’s population, taking the hint, will be heading for the beach, or out on the waves or under them.
Okinawa is well known for every water sport and diversion you can think of, from water skiing to diving to jet skiing to banana boats to fishing to parasailing while Wakayama offers both diving and surfing, and there are many other spots on the never-ending coast to catch big Pacific rollers.
Not all of us are so active or adventurous in the heat but there’s always the beach, and in this country, even when you are on the sand, you are never more than arm’s reach from a cold beer.
Japan’s sea-soaked history means the coastline is home to uncountable little fishing villages, lodged in the hills above the water, and whose lifestyles have barely changed in generations. These are fantastic places to explore and cultural treasures in their own right.
When you tour Japan, you are very aware that the life on the ocean wave (or next to it) shapes the spirit of the country. We should take advantage of it too, and even if you get only as close as the sushi you are reaping the bounty of Japan’s marine heritage.