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Public Holidays

There are a number of public holidays in Japan, and very few of them are shared with Western nations. In fact, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the only two holidays which Japan has in common with the west. However, Japan does have a number of holidays that we don’t find in the west, the most notable being Golden Week; a series of holidays that fall on the last week of April and first week of May.

New Year’s Eve 【Omisoka】 (Dec 31) / New Year【Shinnen】 (Jan 1)

Description While New Year’s Eve, or Omisoka (Dec 31), is technically not a national holiday in Japan, New Year’s Day (Jan 1) is regarded as the start of the most important holiday season in Japan, shogatsu. Consequently, most Japanese work places will close from December 29 to January 3 to honor shogatsu. In Japan, it is customary to use this holiday to spend time with your family. A lot of stores close during the shogatsu season, including department stores and supermarkets, so be sure to plan ahead.

Seijin no Hi (the 2nd Monday of January)

Description Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age Day, takes place on the second Monday of January. The holiday was made to congratulate people coming of age, or reaching 20 years old in Japan. Anyone turning 20 sometime during the year is celebrated nationwide. Usually girls dress in formal kimonos, or Japanese dresses, and go out for formal parties and picture events. Twenty marks the legal age for drinking, smoking and voting in Japan, so turning 20 really is a coming of age.

Kenkoku Kinenbi - Foundation Day(Feb,11)

Description Kenkoku Kinenbi, or National Foundation Day, is held on February 11 to celebrate the founding of the Japanese nation. It is said that on this day, the very first emperor of Japan ascended to the throne in 660 BCE. The holiday was established in 1966 as a way to reflect on the creation of Japan and help stir a national pride. Today, customs for Kenkoku Kinenbi include the raising of Japanese flags, though overt expressions of nationalism or patriotism are controversial and somewhat rare.

Shunbun no Hi - Vernal Equinox Day (March 20)

Description Shunbun no Hi, also known as Vernal or Spring Equinox Day, falls around March 20, though the exact date changes from year to year. Prior to its institutionalization in 1948, the vernal equinox was celebrated in Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan, as an ancestral worshipping festival called Shunki korei-sai. Many Japanese people take this time to visit the graves of their family members and pay respect to the deceased.

Showa no Hi - Showa Day (April 29)

Description Showa no Hi, or Showa Day, takes place on April 29, and is regarded as the start of Golden Week, a series of holidays in late April and early May. The holiday is held to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, officially known as Emperor Showa, and to act as a day of reflection on his reign. After Hirohito died in 1989, the holiday was changed to Greenery Day until 2007, when Greenery Day was moved to May 4 and Showa Day was reestablished.

KenpouKinenbi - Constitution Memorial Day (May 3)

Description Kenpou Kinenbi, or Constitutional Memorial Day, is held on May 3. It was instituted in 1947 to celebrate the establishment of the postwar Constitution of Japan. Kenpou Kinenbi is intended as a day for Japanese people to reflect on the meaning of democracy and the Japanese government. Kenpou Kinenbi is the second holiday in Golden Week, a sequence of holidays that start in late April and continue on through the first week of May.

Midori no Hi - Greenery Day (May 4)

Description Midori no Hi, also known as Greenery Day, occurs on May 4, and was established as a day to celebrate and enjoy nature and all of its blessings. Midori no Hi was originally set on April 29 in place of Showa no Hi, the controversial Emperor Hirohito’s birthday, as a commemoration of the emperor’s love for greenery and nature. It was later moved to May 4 in 2007 when Showa no Hi was reestablished.

Kodomo no Hi - Children’s Day (May 5)

Description Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s Day, is celebrated on May 5 as a day to appreciate children and plan for their future wellbeing. On May 5, people celebrate Tango no Sekku, or the Boy’s Festival. Families pray for health and success for their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls around the house. Traditional food for Kodomo no Hi include mocha rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves and chimaki, a kind of sweet rice paste wrapped in a bamboo leaf.

Umi no Hi - Marine Day (the 3rd Monday of July)

Description Umi no Hi, also known as Marine Day, falls on the third Monday of July. Umi no Hi was established in 1995 as a day of thankfulness for the blessings of the ocean and continued prosperity of the island nation of Japan. Marine Day was originally celebrated on July 20 to commemorate the completion of Emperor Meiji’s steam boat trip around Japan in 1876. These days, many people take advantage of Marine Day to take a trip to the beach.

Keiro no Hi - Respect for the Aged Day (the 3rd Monday of September)

Description Keiro no Hi, or Respect for the Aged Day, takes place on the third Monday of September. The holiday was started as a day to respect the elderly and celebrate longevity. Keiro no Hi has its origins in a southern holiday known as Toshiyori no Hi (Old Folks’ Day), started in 1947. Its popularity quickly spread across the nation, and it became Keiro no Hi in 1966. These days, Japanese media uses Keiro no Hi as an opportunity to feature the elderly, and report on the eldest people in the nation.

Shubun no Hi - Autumnal Equinox Day (September 22 or 23)

Description Shubun no Hi, or Autumnal Equinox Day, usually occurs on either September 22 or 23. The date changes based on the lunar calendar and is not officially declared for each year until February of the prior year. Like Shunbun no Hi, or Vernal Equinox Day, the holiday has its roots in Shinto tradition, and was known as Shuki korei-sai before becoming Shubun no Hi in 1948. Many Japanese people use Shubun no Hi to visit the graves of their relatives.

Taiiku no Hi - Health and Sports Day (the second Monday in October)

Description Taiiku no Hi, also called Health and Sports Day, is celebrated on the second Monday of October. The holiday was initially created in 1966 to mark the opening day of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and as a day to enjoy sporting festivals in Japan. Most companies, schools, and communities choose to use this day to host their annual Field Day. A Field Day in Japan is a bit like a mini-Olympics. Events include 100 meter races, relays, long jumps, tug-of-wars, and obstacle courses for participants to compete in.

Bunka no Hi - Cultural Day (Nov3)

Description Bunka no Hi, or Culture Day, is held on November 3 to promote culture and the arts, as well as freedom and peace. Bunka no Hi was established in 1948 to commemorate the announcement of the Japanese post-war constitution. Currently, Bunka no Hi is used to celebrate local culture, often with parades and other festivities. Additionally, many schools and governments take this opportunity to give out awards to contributors to culture and peace around the world.

Kinrokansha no Hi - Labor Thanksgiving Day (Nov23)

Description Kinrokansha no Hi, also known as Labor Thanksgiving Day, occurs on November 23. The holiday was instituted in 1948 as a day to praise labor and production, while also giving thanks to one another. Prior to 1948, the day was celebrated as a harvest festival, Niiname-sai, but was changed as the post-war constitution brought a number of rights to workers. These days, many labor unions use Kinrokansha no Hi as a day for rallies and marches around Japan.

TennoTanjobi -The Emperor's Birthday(Dec 23)

Description Currently, Tenno Tanjobi, or the Emperor’s Birthday, takes place on December 23 to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s birthday. The reigning emperor’s birthday has been observed as a national holiday since 1868. This is the origin of Showa no Hi; Emperor Hirohito’s birthday which continues to be celebrated on April 29. Tenno Tanjobi is one of the few days when the gates of the imperial palace open to the public. Every year, a crowd of people gather to listen to an address made by the emperor at the palace.