Niinamesai（新嘗祭) Japanese Thanksgiving
The New Autumn Harvest Celebration or Niinamesai, which literally means “the festival of new crops” is considered to be Japanese Thanksgiving. Niinamesai is one of the most important rituals of the country; the Emperor makes the season’s first offering to the gods giving thanks for the fruitful harvest on behalf of the Japanese people.
Niinamesai is a Shinto ritual to offer newly cropped rice to the deities, and to express deep gratitude. The Emperor conducts Niinameai in solitude, as the Shinto Priest, and gives thanks to Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神 the Sun Goddess, Ruler of Heaven, and Ancestor of Emperor) who provided the abundant harvest.
The Japanese acknowledge spiritual beings (Kami 神) in all of nature, such as the mountains and rivers. In Japanese mythology, the principle deity is Amaterasu-ōmikami. The story goes like this:
In order to sustain life to the people of Japan, Amaterasu-ōmikami bestowed rice to her grandson Ninigi-no-mikoto（ニニギノ尊). Rice is not just a staple food for the people; each grain of rice contains part of the life of Amaterasu-ōmikami. Rice represents the spiritual bond connecting people and Heaven. The essence of the Japanese Niinamesai ceremony is the custom of having meals. By way of the rituals and eating food, the Japanese experience communion with deities, expressing gratitude.
The holiday is also known as Labor Thanksgiving as a way to gives thanks to one another for the abundance of the harvest and society.
Fun Fact: There are several ways to say “Thank you” in Japan, depending on the level of formality:
1. "domo arigatou" どうも有難う This is a standard yet casual way to say "thank you." Use this expression with friends and co-workers, but avoid using it with someone who is in a position of authority over you.
2. Shortened to "arigatou" 有難う or ありがとう An even more informal way of saying "thank you." Use this phrase with friends and family. It is appropriate with people who share your status, but someone with a higher status, such as supervisor or teacher, should be treated with more respect.
3. "domo" どうも More polite than arigatou, falling somewhere in between casual and formal speech. Domo literally means "very much," but it is understood to mean "thank you" depending on the context of the conversation. Use this in most polite contexts, but if you need to be extremely polite to someone, there is an even more formal expression.
4. "arigatou gozaimasu" 有難う 御座います This phrase essentially means "thank you very much." Use this expression with people who have a higher status than you, such as supervisors, family elders, teachers, and acquaintances who appear older than you. You can also use this to express formal or deep gratitude to someone close to you.
5. "domo arigatou gozaimasu" どうも 有難う 御座います This is an even politer way of saying "thank you very much." Use this phrase with those who have a higher status or in formal circumstances. You can also use the phrase to express sincerity with someone familiar.
"dou itashi mashite" どういたしまして。In both casual and polite contexts, this phrase is used in response to thanks. It essentially has the same meaning as "you're welcome."
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
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