Tuesday, July 19th, 2022

Sea Day in Kobe, Japan

Photograph of people enjoying a day out in bright sunshine with the landscape of Kobe behind

The third Monday in July is “Marine Day” in Japan. It’s when we celebrate the rivers, seas and oceans that are so important to the Japanese way of life.

It’s difficult to call it a traditional celebration because it’s relatively new. First observed as a holiday in 1996, it can trace its roots back to the 1870s when the Emperor Meiji toured the islands onboard a steam ship. Over half a century later, “Marine Memorial Day” was created, always occurring on July 20th, although it wasn’t until 1996 it was observed as a holiday. A few years later the date was changed to the third Monday of July.

The holiday’s youth is telling in both what it’s called and how it is celebrated. There’s no formal tradition attached to it, so different cities and wards celebrate in their own ways. For some it’s a visit to the beach, others enjoy festivals. Even what it’s called can vary. Here in Kobe it’s called “Sea Day” in English.

Kobe’s celebration focuses on a festival held in Merikan Park near Harborland over the Sunday and Monday. It was a bit quieter this year as Covid precautions were still being observed. That said, there was plenty of food on offer (as you’d expect) and a smaller selection of vessels from the Coast Guard, Customs and harbor authorities. 

If you do find yourself in Japan at the end of July keep your eye open for Sea Day events.

Photograph of a Japanese Coast Guard launch alongside the harbour in Kobe, Japan
A Japan Coast Guard launch alongside the harbor in Kobe, Japan

Photograph of the pollution control vessel Dr Kaiyo alongside the harbour in Kobe, Japan
The pollution control vessel Dr Kaiyo, which patrols the ocean collecting waste and rubbish
Photograph of a Japanese rescue ship alongside the harbour in Kobe, Japan
A Japanese rescue vessel on display as part of the Sea Day celebrations in Kobe, Japan
Photograph of a Japanese customs launch alongside the harbour in Kobe, Japan
A Japanese Customs Launch. Japan rigorously enforces its border restrictions on illicit drugs and weapons.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.