Today, people in Japan are celebrating Umi-No-Hi, that translates as Marine Day or Ocean Day, a holiday which expresses thanks for the blessings of the sea, as well as hopes for Japan's economic prosperity. The holiday is celebrated every year on the third Monday in July, and many celebrate by taking a day trip to the beach.
The origins of this holiday extend back to the the late 19th century, though it was not made a holiday until 1942. In 1874, the Japanese Meiji government commissioned the construction of the Meiji-Maru, a lighthouse service steamship. When it was completed in 1876, the Emperor used it to take an inspection tour of northeastern Japan, starting in Aomori and ending in Yokohama on July 20.
It would not be until 1942 that Marine Memorial Day was established to commemorate the Emperor's voyage on the Meiji-Maru. But, it still would not become a national holiday until 1995, taking on a greater meaning of thanks for the blessings of the ocean. Though it was originally observed on July 20, that changed in 2003 when it was moved to the third Monday in July. This was due to the Happy Monday System, which tried to move some holidays to make more three day weekends.
Today would be the perfect holiday for the Japanese to make a united effort to better protect the bounty of the sea, to agree to protect the endangered fish that they seem to eat far too much. For example, most agree that bluefin tuna is seriously endangered yet the Japanese consume approximately 80% of all bluefin tuna. There is even evidence that when the U.S. consumption of blue fin decreased, Japanese consumption increased.
If we are to save the bluefin, major change has to come from Japan, or all our efforts will fail. Even if the entire U.S. stopping eating blue fin, that would be insufficient to protect these noble fish because of the massive Japanese consumption. Eating a fish into extinction is not a true appreciation of the blessings of the sea. Rather, the Japanese need to become shepherds of the sea, protecting the "flocks" of fish rather than devouring them into oblivion. This protection should extend to more than just bluefin, and include all endangered species.
Japan, please take the opportunity of this holiday to step forward and support seafood sustainability, starting with bluefin tuna.