Articles Real Estate Information Public holidays in Japan – What are Golden Week and Silver Week? Is Christmas Day a holiday?

Public holidays in Japan – What are Golden Week and Silver Week? Is Christmas Day a holiday?

Many holidays are celebrated in Japan. Here is a list of dates that you need to know.

How many public holidays are there in your country? How many do you know there are in Japan?

In Japan, there are 16 public holidays a year specified by the law. The National Holidays Act (the Act) defines a public holiday or a National Holiday as a day for the whole nation to celebrate, appreciate and commemorate, so as to foster beautiful customs and build a better society and a more affluent life.

These are the National Holidays in Japan:

Some of them may coincide with the holidays in your country but some may sound totally new to you. Now, let’s us see what exactly these holidays are.

1. New Year’s Day (January 1)

This is a day to celebrate the beginning of the year. “New Year’s Day” has been a National Holiday since the enactment of the Act in 1948. Traditionally, there have been many forms of celebrations on the New Year’s Day.

2. Coming of Age Day (Second Monday of January)

This is a day to congratulate and encourage the young people who have officially become adults in the society. Japan revised the Civil Code and lowered the age of the majority from 20 years old to 18 years old, effective on April 1, 2022. The Coming-of-Age Day used to be the 15th of January, but following the amendment of the Act in 1998, it was moved to the second Monday of January, effective from 2000.

3. National Foundation Day (February 11)

National Foundation Day is a holiday celebrated for the Japanese people to remind themselves of the nation's founding and foster their love for the nation. This day joined as a national holiday at the amendment of the Act in 1966 and determined as the current 11th day of February by the Cabinet Order issued in December of the same year.

4. Emperor’s Birthday (February 23)

Emperor’s Birthday is a national holiday established since the enactment of the Act in 1948. At that time, it was April 29th, the birthday of Emperor Showa. After the imperial succession in 1989, the day was changed to December 23rd, the birthday of Emperor Akihito, and to the current 23rd of February following the imperial abdication of Emperor Akihito and succession by Emperor Naruhito in 2018.

5. Vernal Equinox Day (Day of Vernal Equinox)

It is a day for the people to appreciate nature and living creatures. Vernal equinox is when the Sun is above the Equator and day and night are of equal length and usually falls on 20th or 21st of March.

6. Showa Day (April 29)

April 29th used to be celebrated as Emperor Showa’s birthday, but after his passing in 1989, it was celebrated as Greenery Day. Subsequently, Greenery Day was moved to May 4th and April 29th remained as a holiday, but was renamed Showa Day to commemorate the Showa era, which saw some of the most complex and turbulent periods in Japan’s history.

7. Constitution Memorial Day (May 3)

This is a day to commemorate the enactment of the Constitution of Japan and commit to the growth of the country. The Constitution was proclaimed on November 3rd of 1945 and came into force on May 3rd of 1946.

8. Greenery Day (May 4)

May 4th used to be a holiday based on a provision of the Act that stipulates a day before and after which are national holidays shall be also a holiday. Greenery Day officially became a national holiday when the Act was amended in 1989, but was originally April 29th. After the revision of the Act in 2003, April 29th is designated as Showa Day and May 4th as Greenery Day.

9. Children’s Day (May 5)

Children's Day is for families to celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children. The fifth day of the fifth month has also been celebrated as Tango no Sekku, a festival for boys. Girls have their own festival, Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival), on the third day of the third month.

10. Marine Day (Third Monday of July)

Marine Day, which formerly was the 20th of July and now third Monday of July since 2003, is the day to be grateful for the blessings of the ocean and wish for the prosperity of Japan as a maritime nation.

11. Mountain Day (August 11)

This is the newest national holiday in Japan, with the amendment of the Act in 2014 and effective since 2016. With about 75% of the land area covered with mountains, Japan celebrates Mountain Day so the people get familiar with mountains and appreciate the blessings.

12. Respect for the Aged Day (Third Monday of September)

This day became a national holiday in 1966, but had long been celebrated as Old Folks Day to honor elderly citizens. It was the 15th of September when the national holiday was established but changed to the third Monday of September in 2003.

13. Autumnal Equinox Day (Day of Autumnal Equinox)

This is a day in autumn to correspond Vernal Equinox Day in spring. It means the astronomical arrival of autumn and occurs either the 22nd or 23rd of September.

14. Sports Day (Second Monday of October)

Sports Day was designated as a national holiday in the hope that the people of Japan will become familiar with sports and cultivate a healthy mind and body through the spirit of sports, thereby building a bright and livable society. It used to be the 10th of October and called as “Health and Sports Day” but changed to the second Monday of October and renamed “Sports Day”.

15. Culture Day (November 3)

November 3rd was Emperor Meiji’s birthday (Meiji era: 1868-1912). At the enactment of the Act in 1948, considering the fact that Japan proclaimed the Constitution which includes an important Article that renounces war on this day, it was named Culture Day to enjoy freedom and peace and promote culture.

16. Labor Thanksgiving Day (November 23)

The 23rd of November used to be a holiday, even before the enactment of the Act, for the Niiname Sai festival to be thankful for the harvest. Now Japanese people celebrate this day to honor all laborers and thank each other. In countries like US, turkey is the centerpiece of the thanksgiving dinner, but there is no special dish for Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan.

What are Golden Week and Silver Week?

You may also have heard the terms “Golden Week” and “Silver Week”. Golden Week is the long holiday formed by Showa Day (April 29), Constitutional Memorial Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4) and Children’s Day (May 5). Many people take days off to make these holidays one long holiday together with the weekend in between. May Day is not a national holiday in Japan. Silver Week is a 4 to 5-day holiday in September formed by the national holidays (Respect for the Aged Day and Autumnal Equinox Day) and general holidays (Saturday and Sunday). Many people travel during Golden Week and Silver Week, so airports and train stations including Shinkansen and hotels in popular destinations are crowded.

Is Christmas a holiday in Japan?

As you may be able to guess by now, Christmas Day is not a national holiday in Japan, but has been established as a commercial holiday and incorporated in many people’s annual event calendar. Companies do not close on the Christmas Day but usually from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January as New Year holiday, while school kids will be on winter holiday already around Christmas until the first week of January.

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