Why are there so many Public holidays in Japan? | Guidable

Why are there so many Public holidays in Japan?

By Ferinmi Mar 26, 2019

This post is also available in: Spanish

Is there a reason why there are so many public holidays in Japan?

According to the data collected by the World Atlas, Cambodia enjoyed the most number of public holidays which has the most holiday in Asia. Almost a month (28 days) was set up to be public holidays in Cambodia. They use traditional Khmer calendar for the Buddish holidays and sync it with the solar calendar for other business holidays. That is the reason why they have the most public holidays making Japan ranked the 7th country with the most holidays per year.

How many are there?

The precise number of holidays is always changing each year, whereas Japan holds at least 16 public holidays every year. However, at least 20 public holidays are set up as a day off in 2019 in Japan. Besides, 114 days (about 32%) which include makeup days and weekends are set up as a day off in Japan this year. This article shows you about the public holidays in Japan, where you should do and go during public holidays and interesting activities you should join during public holidays in Japan.

Why are public holidays so important to the Japanese Community?

Which public holidays are the most celebrated holiday in Japan?

1. New year 31st December 2019 until 5th January 2020

The most well-known annual festival and the major public holiday in every country is New Year. Japanese citizens hold celebrations marked with numerous events from New Year’s Eve until the morning of the New Year. In addition, there are many ways to celebrate the New year in Japan. One of them is “Eating”. Having a year-crossing noodle (To shi ko shi so ba 年越しそば) on New Year’s Eve and having the traditional Japanese New year food (o se chi ryo ri おせち料理) on New Year is the highlight of New Year in Japan. The long soba noodles are thought to represent a long life, whereas buckwheat which soba is made from represents resiliency in the New year. Thus, eating soba represents you leaving your hardship behind in the past year and starting the coming year with a clean slate. In the other hand, the traditional Japanese New Year food composes of many ingredients. Each ingredient has its own meaning. For example, Shrimp is a symbol of longevity and renewing life. Vinegar lotus root is a symbol of an unobstructed view of the future. Japanese bitter orange (代々 dai dai) means from generation to generation. Eating dai dai fruit during New Year signifies a wish for children. Black soybean (黒豆 ku ro ma me) ma me (soybean) sound like 真面目 (ma ji me) means hard work and good health. The symbolism behind it is good health for the coming year. Herring Roe means an abundant harvest and fertility because it contains a lot of tiny eggs. Dried anchovies means making rice crops. This is a symbol of a bountiful harvest. There still have a lot of ingredients which fulled of good meaning inside the traditional Japanese New Year food. Dried Persimmon means a wish for a long life because the skin of dried persimmon resembles the wrinkled skin of an elderly person. Furthermore, everyone loves making a wish for the coming year. Japanese also have this event at a temple in the midnight of 31 st December. Japanese people always visit a shrine (初詣 hatsu mo de) during New Year. A lot of people line up for praying and ringing the temple bell. Base on my experience, I joined this festival last year at Osaka. I spent almost 3 hours waiting for praying. I felt like I had been waiting for a day in the cold weather like that. Besides, the most recommended activity during the New Year in Japan is to buy ‘Lucky Bags’. Lucky Bags have discounted goods inside of the sealed bags which are offered by stores during New Year in Japan. You will not be able to know exactly what are the goods inside lucky bags until you buy and open it by yourself. If you are lucky, you will be able to get merchandise that is costed priced above the cost of Lucky bags.

2. The Obon festival 10th August 2019 until 15th August 2019

The Obon festival, the Japanese festival of the dead is an annual Japanese holiday. Japanese people commemorate and remember ancestors during these days. It is similar to Halloween day. They believed that ancestors’ spirits return home to visit their relatives this time. They prepared horses which made of cucumbers and cows which made of eggplants with wooden sticks (chopsticks) for legs. It means that the horse will help ancestors’ spirits return home as soon as possible, where the cow will take them back to heaven as slow as the festival is over. They start the Obon festival by visiting the cemetery and cleaning up the family’s grave.

Why are there so many public holidays in Japan?

According to my previous article, each public holiday has its origin from established federal holidays that were enacted by Congress or set it up for something important. The major purposes of setting up public holidays are to celebrate the past emperor’s birthday or to give thanks to nature’s bounty or to realize the importance of nature or to promote the Japanese culture, traditional and art. In addition, public holidays usually have unique and interesting activity in specific places in Japan. It is special because it has only once a year for some activity such as Sapporo Snow Festival, Illumination in Tokyo during the winter season or Firework festival during the summer season. The most recommended place for firework is Edogawa firework festival. This year will be held on August 3rd from 7.15 PM ~ 8.30 PM. It is a 15-minute walk from Shinozaki Station and 25 minutes walk from Koiwa stationing Keisei-Edogawa station. You will be able to buy food at food vendors along the street as you walk to the firework festival. I joined this festival last year. I was impressed by the countless firework especially that they launched 1,000 fireworks within the first 5 seconds. The sky was covered in colorful and various fireworks.

List of Public Holidays in Japan

1 st January New Year’s Day
2 nd – 3 rd January Bank holiday
14 th January Coming of Age Day (The second Monday in January)
11 th  February National Foundation Day
21 st March Spring Equinox / Vernal Equinox Day
29 th April Showa Day
30 th April Coronation Day holiday
1 st May Coronation Day
2 nd May Coronation Day holiday
3 rd May Constitution Memorial Day
4 th May Greenery Day
5 th May Children’s Day
6 th May Children’s Day (makeup day)
15 th July Marine Day
11 th August Mountain Day
12 th August Mountain Day (makeup day)
16 th September Respect for the Aged Day (The third Monday in September)
23 rd September Autumn Equinox
14 th October Health and Sports Day (The second Monday in October)
22 nd October Enthronement Ceremony Day
3 rd November Culture Day
4 th November Culture Day (makeup day)
23 rd November Labor Thanksgiving Day
31 st December New Year’s Eve Day
The above list is a list of public holidays in 2019 declared in Japan. Japan has at least 16 public holidays held every year. Besides, a holiday which falls on Sunday dictates that the following day (Monday) turned to be a holiday. Government services are not offered during holidays and schools as well as most businesses remain closed.

Which ones are the longest?

The longest public holiday is known as Golden week. It starts on the 27th of April 2019 and lasts until the 6th of May 2019. Including weekends, it is a 10-day vacation. It is a great opportunity to travel around Japan for someone who lives in Japan. However, it is better to plan as early as you can for everyone who wants to travel because hotels are usually booked, airplane flights become expensive, and reserved seats in the train will usually get filled and become shockingly expensive during Golden week in Japan. Also, most services shut down during this week because, of course, store owner and employees also get vacation days. You must carefully plan your trip and check restaurants, shops, and other places.

What do Japanese people do on these special occasions?

Japanese people also love traveling. Golden week is the best time for traveling because there are long holidays and the weather is so nice, not too hot or not too cold. They do not celebrate it because it is just a bunch of holidays. Although, they get several days off which is enough to travel. There are a few recommended places you should travel to during Golden Week.
1. Hokkaido

One of the more well-known cities in Japan is Hokkaido. Visiting Hokkaido during Golden week is the best time to enjoy flowers. According to 2019 cherry blossom forecast, the Sakura season is expected to arrive earlier than the past year in Japan. Sakura will start brooming around 30th April. The cherry blossom will start from the South of Japan, Kyushu where the temperature will begin to rise earlier at the end of March. Likewise, the cherry blossom will bloom northward until early May in Hokkaido. Thus, this is the best opportunity to enjoy flower viewing (花見 ha na mi) in Hokkaido. The best place for doing Hanami in Hokkaido is Goryokaku. It is a star fort in Hakodate, Hokkaido. It was the main western style fort in the past. Gorykaku tower features an observatory a panoramic view of the entire breathtaking start-shaped estate.  Please check more detail from this article and this article.
2. Hakone

This place is fairly close to Tokyo. It is just around 1 hour 30 minutes ~ 2 hours by train from Shinjuku to Hakone. It costs around 4,420 yen up to 4,560 yen for the return trip. You will be able to enjoy nature, Japanese culture, and tradition. For more information about the trip in Hakone, please check it out from this article.
3. Shizuoka
You will be able to explore the nature and Japanese culture. For more information about must-do places in Shizuoka, please check in here and here.
4. Kansai Region

Visiting Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe are also a few of the more popular choices. You will be able to enjoy not only Japanese culture and scenery but also the delicious food in Kansai.  For more information about Osaka, please observe from this article and Kansai region’s traveling place from this article.
5. Kyushu Region
Traveling to the beautiful Japanese style castle in Kumamoto, famous hot spring in Beppu, Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima, and Yatai street where there are more than 100 food stalls in Fukuoka are other fun options for someone who is looking to enjoy the Southern area of Japan. For more information about where to go on vacation in the Kansai Region, please take a look from this article.
6. Okinawa

Let’s enjoy the holidays in Okinawa where there is room for marine sports, tropical weather and beautiful oceans. For more information about the places where you must visit in Okinawa, please check out this article.
Moreover, you will be able to enjoy hot spring (温泉 on sen) during Golden week. For more information about onset during the summer, please check it out from this article.

Do you still think there are many public holidays in Japan?

It may not be enough for someone who plans to travel a lot and spend time with family or friends, but it may be more than enough for someone who has nothing to do all week. One of the obvious advantages of having long public holidays is you will be able to spend quality leisure time to take a break from your work.