Starting from this year (2016), Japan welcomes Mountain Day (山の日) as the sixteenth public holiday to be celebrated annually on 11 August.
First enacted by the Diet in May 2014, it simultaneously served as a response to the lobbying efforts of the Japanese Alpine Club and various mountain hobbyists, who wanted to celebrate Japan’s plentiful mountains – rather fittingly, seeing as the nation is made up of 70% mountainous terrains. The month (八) was chosen for its symbolic resemblance to the silhouette of the mountain while the authorities in the mountainous regions have already set aside the date beforehand.
Officially, the objective is to provide “opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains” (Office Holidays, 2016), reinforcing the global image of the immanent love Japanese have for nature, and confirming the practice of deriving cultures from nature (Kirby, 2011:75). Ignoring the fact that just one-third of the population knew about the holiday, and only 10% of those who knew were actually contemplating a hiking trip, surely there is more to revering the great summits for the Diet to pass it as a holiday.
It is no secret that Japan has been grappling with her economic stagnation since the economic bubble burst in the early 1990s, and from the capitalism viewpoint, Mountain Day (or any holiday) is a potential boost to the declining consumerism. The ¥820 billion windfall projected by The Japan Times and its ready commoditisation by the “tourism, leisure, hospitality, transportation and retail industries” is simply too good to miss (Yui & Urabe, 2016). As a member of the Group of Eight (comprising of highly-industralised nations), Japan not only stands out for having the highest number of holidays but in furthering the image of ‘Green Japan’ for her “overt” appreciation of nature.
Together with other nature-themed holidays like Greenery Day (04/05) and Marine Day (20/07), it is inevitable to consider Japan and nature-loving synonymous as she constantly presents a self-conscious image of being in-touch with nature, even when evidence showed that most people are utilising such holidays to rest at home (Otake, 2016). It should be noted that most of these “nature-oriented” holidays mask political origins – Greenery Day was formerly called Shōwa Day to celebrate Shōwa Emperor’s birthday, but later amended to recognise the controversial wartime Emperor’s fondness for nature without explicit mention of his name (BBC News, 2005).
However, to some extent, Mountain Day does deflect the argument by Kalland (1997) that Japanese “place…greater value on satisfactions derived from control and mastery over nature…rather than seeking harmony” (Kalland, A. and P. J. Asquith,1997:7) by acknowledging the grandeur of mountains and its volatile tendencies. As mentioned earlier, this is not solely a top-down decision, but advocated by the efforts of local alpinists, reminiscent of “The culture of public participation” highlighted by Howard (1997), and speaks of their sincere appreciation for nature (Howard, 1999:427). Regardless, the illusion of ‘Green Japan’ still stands as ultimately, only a small percent actually celebrates the day for its namesake, therefore making it not representative of Japan’s love of nature.
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan names day after Hirohito. (2005). News.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 18 September 2016, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4543461.stm
Howard, T. (1999). Japan’s green resources: Forest conversation and social values. Agriculture And Human Values, 16: 421- 430.
Kalland, A. and P. J. Asquith (1997). Japanese perceptions of nature: ideals and illusions. Japanese Images of Nature. P. J. Asquith and A. Kalland. Richmond, UK, Curzon: 1-7.
Kirby, P. W. (2011). Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press: 69-75.
Mountain Day | Japanese Public Holidays | Office Holidays. (2016). Officeholidays.com. Retrieved 18 September 2016, from http://www.officeholidays.com/countries/japan/mountain-day.php
Otake, T. (2016). A third of Japan unaware of Mountain Day as holiday makes its debut | The Japan Times. The Japan Times. Retrieved 18 September 2016, from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/10/national/third-japan-unaware-mountain-day-holiday-makes-debut/#.V95SdDvYofg
Teruhide, T. (2010). Volcano Mountain Yakedake. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/kamomebird/5150232965
Yui, M. & Urabe, E. (2016). Japan firms to see sales peak over new Mountain Day holiday | The Japan Times. The Japan Times. Retrieved 18 September 2016, from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/10/business/japan-firms-see-sales-peak-new-mountain-day-holiday/#.V95T5zvYrjZ