8 of Japan’s most interesting observances

By Ken Hunter

WHAT do boxing, chickens, and roller-coasters have in common? Well, in Japan, they each have their own special day. These observances aren’t national holidays — Japan has 15 of those; rather, they’re sometimes little more than marketing ploys created to increase consumption.

Still, it’s interesting to trace their history and learn their origin stories. So, from “Guts Pose” Day to Skating Day, here are eight of the more interesting observances in Japan.


1. White Day (March 14)

White Day in Japan takes place exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. Pic: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaa, Flickr.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day involves women giving men chocolate; on White Day, men return the favor by giving chocolate to women. Japan’s confectionary industry cooked up the idea in the late-1970s. White Day is also celebrated in South Korea, China and Taiwan, but it’s not as popular as Japan’s version.


2. “Guts Pose” Day (April 11)

You often see the “Guts pose” used in Japanese advertising and stock photos. Pic: Ryuzo Kudo, ashinari.com.

On April 11, 1974, Japanese boxer Guts Ishimatsu beat Rodolpho Gonzalez to capture the WBC lightweight crown. In celebrating his victory, Ishimatsu raised his arms above his head and pumped his fists in the air, and the term “Guts Pose” was born in Japan.


3. Boxing Day (May 19)

Yoshio Shirai lands a left against Argentina’s Pascual Perez in a November 26, 1954 bout. Pic: El Gráfico, Wikimedia Commons.

This Boxing Day doesn’t take place on the day after Christmas. This Boxing Day honors Yoshio Shirai, Japan’s first-ever world boxing champion. On May 19, 1952, Shirai defeated Dado Marino in a flyweight title bout. Shirai defended his title four times before losing it in 1954.


 4. Chicken Day (June 28)

Chickens rule the roost on Chicken Day in Japan. Pic: pelican, Flickr.

The Japan Poultry Association hatched Chicken Day in 1978 to raise the consumption of chicken and eggs in Japan. There’s also a Fried Chicken Day on November 21 to mark the opening of Japan’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in 1970.


 5. Roller-coaster Day (July 9)

Thrill-seekers enjoy a roller-coaster ride at Tokyo Dome City. Pic: durian (Adrian Bailon), Flickr.

Known as “jet-coasters” in Japan, roller-coasters are a staple at Japanese amusement parks. In fact, Japan has some of the most thrilling roller-coasters in the world. One of Japan’s first roller-coasters opened on July 9, 1955 at Tokyo’s Korakuen amusement park (now Tokyo Dome City).


6. Taxi Day (August 5)

Taxis wait for passengers outside Sendai station in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Pic: Caveman2, Wikimedia Commons.

Japan’s first taxi company started operations in Tokyo on August 5, 1912 with a fleet of six Ford Model Ts. Today, there are more than 200,000 taxis in Japan, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.


7. Railway Day (October 14)

Japan’s trains have come a long way since the country’s first railway opened on October 14, 1872. Pic: Ken Hunter.

On October 14, 1872, Japan’s first railway opened between Shimbashi and Yokohama, cutting travel time from one day to less than an hour. Today, Japan has one of the fastest and most-efficient rail systems in the world, transporting more than 20 billion passengers a year.


 8.  Skating Day (December 25)

People enjoy an afternoon of ice-skating in Sapporo, Japan. David McKelvey, Flickr.

If you fancy some Christmas ice-skating in Japan, this is the day to do it. On December 25, 1861, British explorer and naturalist Thomas Wright Blakiston became the first person to skate in Japan, when he laced up his blades in Hakodate, Hokkaido.



About the author…

Ken Hunter (Japan)
Ken Hunter is a freelance writer based in Japan, where he has lived since 2003. He enjoys writing about social media, tech, travel and other topics. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, circle him on Google+, and follow him on Twitter.