As an expat in Japan, it’s sometimes difficult to remember all the different holidays that occur in Japan. This can lead to embarrassing situations where a person might show up at their office only to find it closed because it’s a public holiday! This post will introduce you to all of the major Japanese public holidays and their meaning.
How cool will you look when you send your Japanese friends “Marine Day” gifts? Okay, maybe not cool, but we hope you learn something new!
New Year’s Day
Celebrated on the 1st of the New Year, this day is typically reserved for family get-togethers and shopping sprees.
Coming of Age Day (2nd Monday of January)
A special ceremony to congratulate everyone who turned 20 (considered the age of maturity in Japan) over the past year. Once you turn 20 in Japan, you are officially old enough to drink, smoke, and vote!
Foundation Day (February 11)
This date commemorates Japan’s first emperor, Jimmu, ascending to the throne in 660 BCE.
Vernal Equinox (Around March 20)
The exact date for this holiday changes every year. Traditionally, many people use this time off to visit loved one’s graves and pay homage to their ancestors.
Showa Day (April 29)
This holiday celebrates the birth of former emperor Hirohito. He is referred to as Emperor Showa because he was Emperor during the Showa period. This date is intended as a day to reflect on his reign, not glorify the former emperor.
Constitution Day (May 3)
May 3rd is the date in which Japan’s post war constitution took effect.
Greenery Day (May 4)
Greenery Day was originally created to replace Showa day following the death of Hirohito in 1989. It was moved to May 4th to help in the creation of “Golden Week”. Golden Week is typically a week long vacation for most people in Japan, starting from Showa Day and ending with…
Children’s Day (May 5)
Marking the end of Golden Week, Children’s Day is often accompanied by “Koi nobori”, windsocks that resemble Koi fish.
Marine Day (Third Monday of July)
A day to express gratitude for the blessings from the sea – very important to an island nation.
Mountain Day (August 11)
This holiday officially started in 2016 and was created to express appreciation for Japan’s mountains.
Respect for the Aged Day (Third Monday of September)
A day set aside to show respect for the elderly.
Autumnal Equinox (Around September 23)
Similar to the Vernal Equinox, this date celebrates the coming of Autumn. It’s part of a string of holidays, referred to as “Silver Week”, which starts with Respect for the Aged Day and ends with a general Public Holiday in order to provide an extra day of leisure.
Health and Sports Day (Second Monday of October)
A day to celebrate a healthy mind and body. Originally held on October 10th (the opening day of the Tokyo Olympics), it was moved to the second Monday in October along with the introduction of the “Happy Monday System”. This system was designed to move the majority of Japanese public holidays to Monday to provide a long weekend for the majority of employees with a five day work week.
Culture Day (November 3)
A day to celebrate peace and freedom, as well as to promote culture.
Labor Day (November 23)
A day to praise labor and production (sounds very Japanese, doesn’t it).
Emperor’s Birthday (December 23)
The current emperor, Akihito, was born on this day in 1933.
Although not recognized as an official public holiday on the calendar, many Japanese take time off for obon, usually celebrated in mid August. Originally a Buddhist based period of honoring one’s ancestors, nowadays, most Japanese use this time to return to their home towns, visit their family, and clean the graves of their relatives. There are also many festivals during obon.