Marine Day and the Basic Ocean Law [2007/08/08]
The Island of Etorofu, located to the north of Japan
Marine Day is a holiday established in 1996 as Japan’s 14th national holiday. Originally held on July 20, since the 2003 amendment of the National Holidays Law, it has been celebrated on the third Monday in July. The law defines Marine Day as a holiday celebrated in the hope of prosperity for the maritime nation of Japan, as well as a day of thanks for the blessings of the sea.
Marine day is not Japan’s first sea-related holiday. In 1941, July 20 was set aside as Marine Memorial Day, a holiday with the goal of “increasing interest in the sea and using it to cultivate a spirit of embracing the world.” Marine Memorial Day was established on the anniversary of the 1876 return of the Meiji Emperor to the Port of Yokohama, on the two-masted topsail schooner Meiji-Maru, from a tour of the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions.
At the time, Naval Memorial Day was already a national holiday. Celebrated on May 27, this holiday commemorated Japan’s victory in the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War. Although at the time Japan was already on a wartime footing, those involved in the nation’s merchant marine persuaded Telecommunication and Transport Minister Shozo Murata (previously president of the O.S.K. Line shipping company) to establish a new holiday separate from Naval Memorial Day, in the spirit of fostering growth of the maritime nation of Japan.
This was a quiet gesture of resistance by the merchant marine to the Japanese aritime industry’s otherwise wholehearted support for the naval forces during that era.
This year, on what would have been Marine Memorial Day, Japan’s new Basic Ocean Law took effect. This law was created with the consensus of those involved in Japan’s maritime industries, and 1) calls for the consolidation of eight government offices that previously worked separately on maritime issues; 2) establishes a basic plan for maritime matters, and; 3) creates a comprehensive maritime policy headquarters, run by the Prime Minister. The result is a structure for the integrated promotion of maritime policy. The Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has been appointed to the newly established position of maritime minister.
The Basic Ocean Law, which represents the thoughts and hopes of all those involved in Japan’s merchant marine, was drafted and passed by members of the Diet. The Ocean Policy Research Foundation, a sister organization of the Nippon Foundation, promoted the bill up through its submission to the Diet. Sixty-two years after the end of World War II, the maritime nation of Japan has finally set sail on a voyage to protect the sea.