How do Japanese Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Family are gathered, pies are baked, wine will soon flow (at least in my house), football is queued, and the bird is already releasing heavenly, succulent smells that will quickly infiltrate every corner of the house.  By the end of the day, tummies will be full, the room will be full of laughter and games, and eventually, we’ll all pass out in a food coma before our first holiday movie of the year.

So how is Thanksgiving celebrated in Japan?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

In short, they don’t.  It’s an American holiday.  But you knew that already 😉

However, there is a Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day, celebrated every year on November 23rd, with roots in an agricultural harvest festival.  Like Americans, they give thanks on this day, but their gratitude is directed at laborers and a year’s work well done.  And they don’t eat themselves into oblivion nationwide; they save that for New Year’s.


We’ve always been fascinated with Japan and their culture, so one year, we decided to attempt a Thanksgiving feast with a bit of Nihon flair.  There were a few things we refused to give up (like the turkey and pumpkin pie), but we managed a few non-traditional dishes as well.

This was our lineup:

This is clearly more American than Japanese, but it was a fun challenge to see what dishes we could find to fit both.

Several years later, I had a language partner from Japan during my fall school term.  I thought, what’s more American than showing her what a real U.S. Thanksgiving is like?  So we invited her, and I’m so happy she accepted.  We ended up also having a couple of our friends over, and they brought onigiri to add to the feast.  We ate lots of food, played games, watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and gave a Japanese native a taste of American tradition.

I often wonder what traditions I would maintain if I lived in Japan, and which of theirs I would happily adopt.  What do they keep and assimilate, themselves?  All in all, I love the blending of cultures.  So no matter what kind of Thanksgiving you celebrate, I hope it is filled with love, laughter, and fun!



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