7 Reasons Why Japan Has Many National Holidays!

7 Reasons Why Japan Has Many National Holidays!

For many foreign residents, Japan’s National Holidays and the reasons for them can seem confusing, if a nonetheless welcome break from the monotony of work. But I’m not sure we Japanese think of them very much differently; it’s enough for most of us to see the red days on the calendar and know we can sleep in or spend a long weekend visiting friends or family. As to why there are so many Japan National Holidays, the reasons are many.



 

7 Reasons Why Japan Has Many National Holidays!

 

1. We Deserve a Break!

Real reasons aside for a moment, the (perceived) large number of National Holidays in Japan helps to offset the meagre from10 to 20 days of mandatory paid holiday we get, whereas EU countries guarantee workers 28 days! Add to that the long working hours, a work ethic that very often ‘obliges’ us to voluntarily work overtime or not leave the office until the boss does, a 6 day week that still persists in many industries, and… well yes, I’m grumbling!

 

2. The Calendar

Not wishing to confuse things further, it’s perhaps worth noting that until Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, Japan national holidays and festivals followed the Chinese lunisolar calendar, and a few still do. However, it was not until 1948 that the first of our modern public holidays were established by the Pubic Holiday Law.

 

3. Longer Holidays

Golden Week is a period between April 29 and May 5 containing four public holidays. Many Japanese take paid holiday at this time, so many companies close down completely making it the longest holiday period of the year. Two other Japan National Holidays that are observed for most or all of a week include New Year in January, and the August Obon Festival that honors our ancestors.

 

4. Honor and Respect

Notions of honor and respect play a large part in Japanese culture, language and religious tradition, so many of our public holidays act as reminders of our obligations to others. These include: Coming of Age Day (2nd Monday, Jan) to celebrate those who’ve reached the age of majority (20 years old); Children’s Day (May 5) to celebrate the personality of our children and plan their future happiness; Respect for the Aged Day (3rd Monday, Sept) to celebrate long life; Autumnal Equinox Day (Sept 22 or 23) to honor ancestors and remember the dead; and Labour Thanksgiving Day (Nov 23) which celebrates labour and industry.

 

5. Nation

Though we no longer worship the Emperor as a god, there is still great reverence for the monarchy, as well as a sense of pride in the nation under our modern constitution. Holidays that reflect these notions include: Foundation Day (Feb 11); Shouwa Day (April 29), in honor of the late Emperor, and marking the start of Golden Week; Constitution Memorial Day (May 3); Health & Sports Day (2nd Monday, Oct) to promote healthy minds and bodies; Culture Day (Nov 3) to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture; and the Emperor’s Birthday (Dec 23).

 

6. Nature

The Japanese love of nature is celebrated through several public holidays: Vernal Equinox Day (March 20 or 21), a day for appreciating nature and all living things; Greenery Day (May 4), a day to commune with and be grateful for nature’s blessings; Marine Day (3rd Monday, July) to express thanks for the oceans’ bounty and hope for maritime prosperity; and Mountain Day (Aug 11), a new holiday from 2016, this celebration of Japan’s mountains coincides with the Obon holiday.

 

7. Happy Mondays

In case you were wondering why some Japan National Holidays always fall on Mondays, this is because in 2000, Japan implemented the Happy Monday system which moved four of our national holidays to Mondays so as to create more long weekends. Personally, I’d be even happier if they were all moved to Mondays!

 

Conclusion

As I said, I’m not sure how much we really think about the reasons for our Japan National Holidays; the important thing is we get them at all. I would much prefer longer mandatory paid holidays that we could take when we liked, rather than everyone taking holidays at the same time, as happens at Golden Week and Obon, creating massive logjams at airports and on the highways. It also seems to me that some of our public holidays are a hypocrisy, such as Marine Day, and only really celebrate a kind of blissful ignorance of our failings as a nation.

 

7 Reasons Why Japan Has Many National Holidays!

1. We Deserve a Break!
2. The Calendar
3. Longer Holidays
4. Honor and Respect
5. Nation
6. Nature
7. Happy Mondays