A Guide to Japan’s Faux Holidays

Have you ever noticed that, out of the blue, all convenience stores are suddenly displaying a vast array of slender pocky boxes, with signboards urging you to buy those additive chocolate sticks because something special is going on? You remind yourself of the date — November 11, or rather, 11/11 — and you make the association: four lines that to many Japanese people look like Pocky sticks — and then you figure, it’s time to celebrate Pocky Day!

Or perhaps you’re shopping for dinner ingredients, same as every day, pondering what to cook tonight, when you notice that all the meat is unusually cheap. Another glance at your smartphone screen – February 9, and you learn it’s Meat Day!

Yes, that’s right, Japanese is an innovative country and has an endless list of mysterious made-up holidays — from Cat Day to Vegetable Day and even Natto Day. The correct terminology for these oddities is kinenbi, the Japanese word for anniversary or memorial day, but the English translation doesn’t quite capture the right nuance — so let’s call them “faux-lidays.”

Kinenbi are often the clever product of a play on words, based on how the dates can be read or sound. Though the list …continue reading