Japan has lots of holidays tied to its colorful and interesting culture.
This includes national holidays and like Coming of Age Day, recently celebrated on the 13th January, and other special days like Girls' Day or Doll's Day (Hinamatsuri).
However, did you know Japan also celebrates a lot of much sillier 'pun' holidays?
These silly holidays are a product of Goroawase (語呂合わせ) which is a form of “wordplay” or puns using the Japanese language.
The majority of the puns for these holidays (referred to as kinenbi or anniversary days) are a play on the way that numbers can be read.
Depending on the context, the particular kanji for a number can be read in different ways.
Using these different readings, Japanese people often create funny puns out of them, which turn into silly holidays recognized by the Japan Anniversary Association.
Before we take a look at some of these silliest holidays, let's learn to count to 10 in Japanese.
1 - ichi (いち)
2 - ni (に)
3 - san (さん)
4 - shi, yon (し、よん)
5 - go (ご)
6 - roku (ろく)
7 - shichi, nana (しち、なな)
8 - hachi (はち)
9 - ku, kyuu (く、きゅう)
10 - juu (じゅう)
Now you know your Japanese numbers, you'll understand why these funny Japanese holidays are so...funny!
On January 5th, the date can be read as 1 / 5, “ichi - go”, which is the word for strawberry (ichigo / いちご)!
Some restaurants will capitalize on this by making an entire limited-time strawberry menu. Specialty strawberry treats such as cakes and tarts will be on offer, too.
Some sources also cite January 15th as the date for strawberry day, which, as far as we’re concerned, still works!
We're a little late, but March's Japanese sweets subscription box celebrates the delicious variety of Japanese strawberries.
If you love ichigo, don't miss our Strawberry Lover Sweets Pack (available from 1 February, while stocks last).
Steak Donburi from Food Wars (Shokugeki no Soma)
February 9th, [ 2 / 9 ] can be read as “ni-ku,” the word for meat (niku / にく)!
On this day, you can find Japanese posting photos on their social media of their meat-filled meals like yakiniku (grilled meat) or yakitori (grilled meat skewers, usually chicken), and celebrating the deliciousness that is meat!
As 2020 is a leap year, Meat Day may be celebrated on February 29. Since it comes only every four years, this might be the most special day to celebrate meat!
Bug day! 6 / 4 can be read as mu-shi, which is the corresponding word for bug (mushi / むし).
June also marks the start of summer! The quintessential sounds of summer for Japanese people are the various songs of cicadas and other insects hiding in the fields and trees.
Take some time to appreciate the nature around you!
Natto (なっとう) or fermented soybeans, is a popular Japanese food that is also infamous for its sticky, slimy texture and…interesting smell.
Some people can’t get past the scent or stickiness, while others love it and could eat it everyday, with anything from rice to soup to toast!
This day, read as 7 / 10 or “na-to,” celebrates this popular food. Natto is also said to have many health benefits, which is why some people eat it despite not liking the taste.
Since we had Meat Day in February, it makes sense that there must be a Vegetable Day too!
August 31 can be read as 8 / 31 or “ya-sa-i,” which is the Japanese word for vegetables!
Celebrate this day by adding some flavorful sautéed vegetables into your diet. Who said greens can’t be tasty?
October 2nd can be read as 10 / 2 or “to-fu,” an essential part of everyday Japanese cuisine.
You see tofu everywhere, inside miso soup, hot pot dishes, or even fried!
Tofu has a long history in Japanese cuisine, and is especially important to add protein to vegetarian dishes— like those served to monks who choose not to eat meat.
Did you know? According to the Japan Tofu Association while tofu is a daily staple now, in the past it used to be considered a luxury meal reserved only for holidays and special occasions!
Look closely at the date 11 / 11…they numbers kind of look like sticks, don’t they?
Pocky is a beloved Japanese snack that consists of a chocolate (or strawberry, matcha, or cookies and cream!) covered wafer stick. The company Glico that makes Pocky decided to celebrate Pocky Day on November 11th, because of the resemblance of the numbers to Pocky sticks.
On this day, you can find special deals on Pocky at convenience stores to help you celebrate the holiday!
In actual fact, November 11th is Pocky and Pretz Day! Find out why and how we celebrate two of Japan's most iconic snacks.
The Japan Anniversary Association along with Project Eevee announced in 2018 that they would recognize November 21 as National Eevee Day!
Eevee’s Japanese name is pronounced like iibui, and that is how you can read this special date!
11 / 21 can be read as “i-i-bu-i.” At first, Japanese people celebrated this beloved Pokemon by sharing art of the adorable creature. You might want to check out the Pokemon Centers across Japan to see if they have any special deals or events!
There are too many to list them all, so here are some other holidays you might like to celebrate this year!
What funny holidays will you be putting in your calendar?
This blog was written by Sam: Sam is a university student interested in everything in otaku culture, from video games to anime. Growing up, she spent several hours in front of the TV watching mahou shoujo shows, and now binges entire seasons of anime within in a few hours. She loves to attend conventions in cosplay and always stops to take pictures of stray cats.