Fathers' Day in Japan: History and Traditions

Written by: Zuzanna Sato



Time to read 8 min

Fathers' Day in Japan: History and Traditions

In Japan, June brings with it the beginning of summer, the rainy season, and... Father's Day!

More than a month after Mother's Day celebrations in Japan wrap up, it's Dad's turn to take the spotlight.

To be honest, as I had a chance to observe during my 15 years in Tokyo, Father's Day in Japan doesn't seem to be celebrated with the same oomph as Mother's Day.

But I guess it's not just the case in Japan - right?

While kids in their kindergarten years are all about crafting heartfelt cards and DIY gifts for their dads, that enthusiasm tends to wane as they grow older.

Interestingly, when I ask my Japanese friends if they celebrate Mother's Day, almost everyone says yes!

Even older "children" (I mean adults in their 60s!) - send flowers to their mothers as long as they are still with them.

But when I ask what they do for Father's Day, my friends usually let out an embarrassed giggle and answer: nothing much!

But, while Father's Day might play second fiddle to Mother's Day in Japan, it's definitely not nonexistent.

Especially now, with more and more Japanese fathers taking on active roles in parenting and household duties.

In this post, let's have a look how Father's Day started in Japan and how it's celebrated.

(If you are curious about other Japanese habits, like for example how the Japanese deal with sweat and body odours, click here)


Fathers' Day in Japan: History and Traditions

When is Fathers' Day in Japan?

In Japan, Father's Day, known as Chichi no Hi (父の日), is celebrated on the same date as in the United States, on the third Sunday in May.

So, in 2024, Japanese Father's Day is on the 16th of May.

Is Fathers' Day celebrated in Japan?

Fathers' Day in Japan: History and Traditions

This tradition has some interesting history, and many people wonder if the Japanese celebrate Father's Day.

Father's Day in Japan wasn't really a thing until the late 1980s, and the whole idea of creating a special day for dads came from the USA.

Father's Day owes its beginnings to Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, who was inspired by her father's remarkable efforts in raising six children solo.

In 1909, after hearing about Mother's Day, she thought dads deserved their special day too.

With backing from local leaders and the community, the inaugural Father's Day took place on June 19, 1910, perfectly timed with Sonora's dad's birthday.

In 1972, Father's Day was officially recognized in the US.

However, it took some time for Japan to embrace the trend, with its popularity beginning to rise around the 1950s.

It wasn't until 30 years later that the Father's Day celebration really took off, with unlikely help from a member of the Japan Men's Fashion Association.

In 1980, a guy named Kyōichi Itō, who was the board chairman of the aforementioned association, got all inspired by the American tradition and decided to set up Japan's own Father's Day committee.

Talk about some serious influencer power!

From there, Father's Day been celebrated every third Sunday of June.

But can you guess what really helped Father's Day gain popularity in Japan during the 1980s?

That's right! An opportunity to make money!

As you might imagine, the commercial sector played a big role in popularizing the holiday.

Department stores and other businesses jumped on the bandwagon, touting all sorts of gifts and events, making Father's Day a big deal in Japan.

Nowadays, it's a widespread thing, with even celebrities getting in on the action and special awards being handed out to awesome dads.

How does Japan celebrate Father's Day?

How Does Japan Celebrate Mother's Day

Even if Fathers days celebration in Japan is similar to other countries, it has its own flavour.

This is due to the unique dynamics within Japanese families, namely Dads being extremly busy grinding away at work all day, often coming back home after kids are in beds and having little time for family hangouts.

The little free time that Japanes Fathers have is usually spend on catching up sleep or compulsory group activities, leaving even fewer opportunities for bonding with the family.

The kinds are not idle, either.

They're juggling school and more extracurricular than you can shake a stick at,

Baseball practice, piano lessons – you name it, they're probably doing it.

With everyone's schedules jam-packed, finding quality family time can feel like a mission impossible.

That's where Father's Day gives a chance for dads and kids to hit pause on the chaos and just be together.

So, this reminder to slow down and appreciate your Dad might be even more special or needed in Japan than in other countries.

What flowers do Japanese give for Father's Day?

do Japanese give for FLOWERS 2024  edition www.dressyourcolor.com FATHER’S DAY? What

Just like moms receive carnations on Mother's Day, dads have their own flower too – roses!

It all started when Mrs. Dodd in America placed white roses on her father's grave, and since then, roses became the go-to gift for dads.

In the US, red roses are given to living dads, while white roses are offered in remembrance of those who have passed away.

But in Japan, it's all about YELLOW roses!

Ever wonder why yellow?

Well, it's thanks to the "Father's Day Yellow Ribbon Campaign" by the Japan Father's Day Committee, which started the tradition in the 1980s.

They decided that the color yellow, symbolizing happiness and safety, was just perfect for dads. So, yellow roses it is!

Yellow roses also symbolize "dedication and refreshment" in  the language of flowers, fitting for hardworking dads.

Along with yellow roses, sunflowers are also a big hit!

Their round flowers and bright yellow petals are reminiscent of the sun and its uplifting energy, making them appropriate for the occasion.

Additionally, as Father's Day is celebrated in June, and sunflowers symbolize the season, it makes them a perfect choice for the occassion.

Plus, in the language of flowers, sunflowers mean "longing, brilliance, admiration, looking only at you", making them ideal for expressing admiration and respect for a hardworking dad.

So, put it all together, and you get bouquets of yellow roses and bunches of sunflowers as the main gifts for Japanese Father's Day.

But what about other presents apart from flowers?

What gifts do Japanese dads receive on their special day? 

What Father's Day gifts are popular in Japan?

When it's time to celebrate Dads in Japan, I don't think there's much difference in the types of gifts fathers get compared to other countries.

It's all thanks to department stores that start stocking up on Father's Day goodies by the end of May.

They've got everything from fancy neckties and shirts to cool electronic shavers and bags.

But hey, it's not all about work-related stuff – Japanese dads love kicking back and relaxing too.

That's where one of the most popular gift for men comes in - alcohol!

Think top-notch Japanese beers, sake, shochu, and whiskey, all wrapped up in snazzy Father's Day-themed packaging.

And food? Department food stores are full of mouthwatering eel (a traditional summer delicacy) and seafood delights.

If Dad's more into leisurely activities, giving him some golf gear or a slick diver's watch is a common option in Japan.

And of course, all-purpose gifts like trendy polo shirts, high-tech electric shavers, or customized mugs with Dad's name on them are also very trendy.

So, these are some popular gifts for Father's Day in Japan, but is it what dads actually want?

Keep reading to find out!

What do Most Men in Japan Want for Father's Day?

What do Most Men in Japan Want for Father's Day?

When it comes to Father's Day gifts, it seems like there's a bit of a misunderstanding between what dads truly want and what ends up in their hands.

And I have a feeling that commercialization might be to blame.

Department stores and advertisements often push for sales by promoting fancy presents like gourmet foods, alcohol, or stylish clothes as the ultimate gifts for dads.

But is it what fathers actually want?

According to a fascinating survey by the Japanese website Iroiro WeBNote, dads are after some simple, heartfelt gestures that money can't buy – like handmade cards with “thank you dad” written on them.

But what do kids typically THINK their dads want?

Well, it's usually gourmet foods, alcohol, clothes, or maybe even cash or vouchers.

Here are the survey's highlights:

  • Gourmet foods: Kids give 25.9% vs. dads want 23.2%
  • Alcohol: Kids give 22.8% vs. dads want 14.8%
  • Clothes/fashion: Kids give 22.6% vs. dads want 12.1%
  • Cash/cash vouchers: Kids give 6.7% vs. dads want 7.9%
  • Necktie: Kids give 2.8% vs. dads want 6.8%
  • Sports-related goods: Kids give 2.6% vs. dads want 4.9%
  • Wallet: Kids give 1.7% vs. dads want 4.6%
  • Handkerchief: Kids give 1.4% vs. dads want 3.0%
  • Letters/cards: Kids give 0.9% vs. dads want 10.5%
  • Watches: Kids give 0.7% vs. dads want 2.4%
  • Miscellaneous: Kids give 11.9% vs. dads want 9.6%

It reminds me a bit of Mother's Day celebrations – whern we're bombarded with messages telling us that moms want pricey gifts.

But let me tell you, as a mom myself, there's nothing that warms my heart more than a handmade gift from my son.

Even the most crooked "I love you mom" card means the world to me because I know he took the time to create something special just for me.

So, maybe it's time to rethink our approach to Father's Day and focus on what truly matters – those heartfelt, personal gestures that money can't buy.

After all, it's the thought and effort that count the most, right?

A New Trend in Japanese Father's Day Celebrations!

There is an unexpected twist to gift-giving traditions for Father's Day in Japan!

Dads seem to be taking matters into their own hands when it comes to choosing presents.

Just like how Valentine’s Day has become an excuse for self-love in Japan, Father’s Day is turning into a "treat yourself" kind of occasion for men.

Whether they've been putting in extra hours at work or just want to splurge on something fancy they've had their eye on, dads are seizing the opportunity to indulge a little. 

This year, stores like Takashimaya in Nagoya and Mitsukoshi in Tokyo are even setting up special sections for "self Father’s Day" gifts.

With discounts and tempting offers, it's no wonder dads – and even non-dads – are treating themselves to something nice.

Celebrating Father's Day in Japan - The Conclusion

As you can see, Father's Day in Japan is not-so-old, but already a firmly rooted celebration with a bit of a local twist.

How do you celebrate Father's Day in your country?

Do you have any unique traditions or special ways of showing appreciation to the fathers in your life?

When it comes to giving gifts on Father's Day, what are your usual go-tos?

Do you opt for flowers, alcohol, handmade crafts, or something else entirely?

Share your gift-giving traditions with us!

Zuzanna Sato,  blog author, fashion designer
Image from DressYourColor

Zuzanna Sato, fashion designer, founder of DressYourColor

Hi! I'm Zuzanna, the founder of a luxury slow fashion brand based in Japan.

I use vintage Japanese textiles to create sustainable fashion that revels in color and beauty.

I love giving new life to kimonos that can no longer be used in their original form.

In my designs, I use oversized silhouettes to showcase incredible Japanese textiles in all their glory.

I revel in maximal style: bold shapes, patterns, and anything that glitters.

I hope you visit me often and that we can enjoy the beauty of Japanese textiles together! 😊

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