How Many Public Holiday does Japan have in a Year?
According to this website, Japan has a total of fifteen public holidays a year. Japan has a lot of holidays, so much so that Japan is ranked the 7th country with the most holidays a year, with Cambodia ranked at the top. However, this is not including weekends. If the holiday is on Friday or Monday, you sometimes get a three-day off within a week! Meaning you can take a small trip somewhere during those few days. How awesome! Besides, each holiday in Japan has its own unique activities which you definitely shouldn’t miss because it comes only once a year. Let’s check the calendar for this year, and start setting some travel plans!
1st January New Year’s Day (元日 = Gan jitsu)
New Year’s day is a National holiday, and it is the most important holiday in Japan. Most workplaces are closed from 1st January to 4th January (正月 sho gatsu). It will be a six-day off (including weekends). In the case that you want to travel to some famous attractions. However, you have to plan as quickly as you can because airplane tickets and hotels are usually expensive during public holidays.
Things which to do during New Year’s Day:
1. Many Japanese people start their new year by taking in the view of the New Year’s sunrise (初日の出 hatsu hi no de). This sunrise holds extra significance as it commemorates the beginning of the new year. January 1st is meant to be filled with happiness, free of stress, and avoid anything negative.
2. Japanese people visit a shrine (初詣 hatsu mo de) during the first three days of January. Tons of people line up to pray and ring the temple bell. The most popular shrine in Tokyo is Meiji Shrine. Temple bell sounds can be heard starting midnight during New Year’s.
3. The unique food for New Year’s Day in Japan is osechi ryori (おせち料理). It is the traditional Japanese foods for enjoying on New Year’s Day. They come in an assortment of colorful dishes packed in a special box called Jubako (重箱). This special box has up to about 2 or 3 layers of food, and each layer has a variety of different dishes. This dish is not something that is meant to be eaten alone however it is often split among a family.
4. Saying あけましておめでとうございます (a ke me shi te o me de tou go zai ma su) means happy new year. 今年もよろしくお願ねがいします (ko to shi mo yo ro she ku o ne gai shi ma su) means we will be counting on you this year as well. This sentence expression aims to use for continuing a good relationship for the next year.
The second Monday of January (14th January) Coming of Age Day (成人の日 sei jin no hi)
It is traditional to congratulate people who have reached the age of maturity (20 years old) during the year. It is an important rite of passage, all young Japanese people can trace its roots back hundreds of years because you are considered an adult at the age of 20 in Japan. Thus, they are allowed to drink, drive, smoke, and gamble legally.
Things to do on the coming of age day:
1. Adolescences who become an adult (20 years old) in the year wear a ceremonial dress called Furisode (振袖), which is a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried young girls, whereas young boys usually wear hakama (袴) or western-style formal suite.
2. They join the coming of age ceremony which is held at a city hall or ward office. The city’s mayor gives all attendees a speech to welcome the new adults into their roles and remind them of their responsibilities.
3. After finishing the ceremony, they usually go to a shrine to pray for health and success.
The 11th of February is National Foundation Day (建国記念の日 ken ko ku ki nen no hi).
It is a national holiday for Japanese people to remind themselves of the nation’s founding and foster their love for the nation. Besides, It aims to celebrate the mythological foundation and the accession of the first Emperor (Emperor Jimmu). It is basically the same as Independence Day in the United States or Australia Day in Australia
3rd March Doll’s Festival or Girls’ Festival (雛祭り Hina matsuri)
It is not a public holiday, but it is held on a Sunday. Any house which has girls in the family will usually celebrate Hina Matsuri by laying out a set of dolls which are in the style of a Heian period imperial court. Besides, they decorate their house with peach blossom.
21st March March Equinox or Spring Equinox (春分の日 Shun bun no Hi)
This national holiday was established as a day to admire nature and all living things. The March Equinox usually holds on 20th March of 21st March. However, the official holiday isn’t announced until February of the previous year. The reason for this is that the nature of the holiday revolves around astronomical changes. An equinox is the exact moment in the time when the sun stands directly above the equator. That means the day and the night have an approximately equal time length.
1st May Coronation Day
The current Emperor (Emperor Akihito) of Japan will renounce the royal throne on 30th April, and the current crown prince (Prince Naruhito) will become the Emperor the following day on 1st May this year. Thus, Both day and the day after (2nd May) are now declared to be a public holiday in Japan.
3rd May Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日 Kenpo Kinenbi)
It is a national holiday in Japan to celebrate the promulgation of the 1947 Constitution of Japan. Emperor Hirohito announced unconditional surrender to allied forces after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Constitution of Japan was signed, as well as they mentioned workers, human rights and Japan’s reversed progression. On this day, the National Diet Building (国会議事堂 Kok kai gi ji do) are open to the public and allowing the expanding the knowledge to everyone who visits. It is located at ‘1 chome 7-1, Nagatacho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0014’. Mark this day on your own travel calendar, you will be allowed to visit the National Diet Building for free!
4th May Greenery Day (みどりの日 Midori no Hi)
This national holidays held on 4th May every year as a day to commune the nature and to be grateful for blessings. Greenery Day was changed from 29th April (Showa Day) to 4th April.
5th May Children’s Day
This public holiday was originally established to esteem the personalities of children and celebrating their happiness. A family which has boys will hoist carp kites outside of their homes. The carp flags are the national symbol for this holiday. Visitors who go to Japan during Golden week can get a lot of unforgettable experiences, such as getting a view of the carp kites, a unique event only practiced in Japan.
However, Greenery Day and Children’s Day are held on the weekend. Unfortunately, you can’t get an extra day off for Greenery Day, while Children’s Day has a make-up holiday during weekdays on 6th May.
For your information, from 27th April until 6th May is called a Golden week in Japan. It is the longest holiday (10 days which include Saturday and Sunday) in this year. For all visitors, if you travel within Japan during this time, you may encounter extreme crowds gathered around sightseeing spots. However, some Japanese people plan to travel abroad to flee from packed of Japanese at attraction places. The airplane ticket for leaving Japan is more expensive than usual. It costs around double the price of normal tickets.
7th June Star Festival (七夕 Tanabata)
Tanabata means the evening of the seventh. It is a Japanese festival originating from China. Unfortunately, Star Festival is not a public holiday, but what I think it is the most interesting festival of the year, especially in the case that you have a lover to be accompanied by. The reason is this festival aims to celebrate the meeting of Orihime and Hikoboshi because the Milky Way which Orihime’s father made separates them apart. They are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh of July.
Things which to do during the Star Festival
1. Tree decorations: The tree or bamboo are set up in a variety of public places such as train station and stores. Everyone is allowed to write a wish on the colored paper strips called 短冊 (tan za ku) and hang them on the bamboo.
2. Attend the Tanabata festival: This festival is basically practiced everywhere in Japan. They often have outdoor food stalls, games for visitors and traditional performances or parades.
3. Wearing (浴衣) Yukata: Japanese transitional clothes for summer. You can wear Yukata and travel to the Tanabata festival. Yukata is less expensive than Kimono and it is easier to wear because of its simplicity.
The third Monday of July (15th July) Sea Day (海の日 Umi no Hi)
The purpose of this day is to give thanks to the ocean’s bounty, as well as consider the importance of the ocean. This emphasis on the ocean is thanks to Japan being an island and influencing the people’s lives through the ocean.
11th August Mountain Day (山の日 Yama no Hi)
It is the newest public holiday in Japan. However, 11th August falls on Sunday, the following Monday will be observed as a public holiday. This day is intended to provide “opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessing from mountains”. From Japan’s history, After the Japanese Alpine Club and other groups lobbied for the bill, arguing that Japan should celebrate its peaks and mountains because of Shinto beliefs in nature. 11th August was chosen to be Mountain Day because 8 (八) in kanji looks like a mountain, whereas 11(十一) in kanji looks like 2 trees. I tried hard to imagine 2 trees from 11 kanji but I personally couldn’t figure it out.
The third Monday of September (16th September) Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日 Keirō no Hi)
Respect for the Aged Day was set to celebrate annually to honor and respect Japan’s elderly citizens in 1966. Especially since Japan has a lot of senior citizens aged 65 and above. The culture teaches to treat their elders right and respectfully.
23rd September September Equinox or Autumnal Equinox
This national holiday was established as a day for the admiration of nature and the love of living things. The March Equinox usually holds on 22nd September or 23rd September March. The official holiday will not be announced until February of the previous year due to astronomical observations. The Autumnal Equinox marks on the day that sun crosses over the equator from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere. The Sun rises exactly on the East and sets exactly in the West on this day. That makes the day and the night have an approximately equal time length. The daytime of the following days begins to become shorter than nighttime in the Northern hemisphere.
The second Monday of October (14th October) Health and Sports Day (体育の日 Taiiku no Hi
This public holiday was set in 1966 to encourage everyone to enjoy sports and a healthy mind and body to commemorate the opening of Tokyo Olympic Games on 10th October 1964. However, the happy Monday system was applied in 2000, so Health and Sports Day was moved from the 10th of October to the second Monday of each October.
If you noticed, most of the holidays are held on a Monday because Japan has a “Happy Monday system”, a Japanese law in since 1998. Thus, they changed a number of public holidays in Japan to Mondays to create 3 day weekends. (longer for taking a rest!)
3rd November Culture Day (文化の日 Bun ka no Hi)
Culture Day falls on Sunday, so the following Monday is a public holiday instead. You can get 3 days off. (三連休 san ren kyu) This day was chosen because of the date of birth of Emperor Meiji (1867-1912). It is a day to honor traditional Japanese culture and cultivate freedom and peace. For the visitors who come to Tokyo where is filled with celebrations. Hakone is home to the Feudal Lord’s Parade which is a great procession to go sightseeing. Besides, the rest of the country has lots to see and do on this day! Mark this day on your calendar to have an awesome experience in Japan!
25th December Christmas Day
Like most countries around the world, Japan also celebrates Christmas Day. However, Japanese Christmas celebrations are slightly different and include ‘illuminations’ throughout Japan. Theme parks, streets, and shopping malls are decorated with lights and themed decorations. Japanese people on a budget will usually order KFC chicken and cake for celebrating Christmas Day because KFC launched a very popular Christmas campaign during the ’70s and it has stuck ever since! However, Christmas is not considered a national holiday, so the majority of people still go to work.
31st December New Year’s Eve
Things which Japanese do on New Year’s Eve
1. Having Toshikoshi Soba (年越しそば): It is a year-crossing noodle, Japanese traditional noodle. They called normal Soba noodles Toshikoshi soba when they eat them at the night on New Year’s Eve.
2. Saying 良いお年をお迎え下さい (yoi o to shi wo o mu ka e ku da sai) means please have a good New Year. However, people usually make it short 良いお年を.
3. Joining the year forgetting party (忘年会 bou nen kai): This Japanese drinking party aims to leave the old year’s worries and troubles behind of the past year, and hopefully look to the new year.
Did you Learn Anything New for the Upcoming Public Holidays for Japan 2019?
For the visitors who visit Japan, you will be able to enjoy the different activities during each time of the year based on the season. Moreover, different regions may have different traditional cultures where you can experience new things.
For your information about Valentine’s Day and check the information about chocolate for Valentine’s Day, White Day and Halloween.