Perhaps there is no other country that has as many official public holidays as Japan. At present, the special Japanese Public Holiday Law establishes 15 official public holidays as well as their dates. Such a large number of public holidays can be explained partly by Japanese tradition not to take long vacations – maximum up to 10-12 days. Within Japanese firms employee's absence more than stated period of time is considered "displaying no team spirit” and as expression of disloyalty to the company. That is why many Japanese prefer to combine their vacation with public holidays, especially during the so called "Golden Week” celebrated at the beginning of May.
On the other hand this relatively large number of national public holidays is linked to the fact that some of them are indigenously traditional holidays stretching their roots into history of Japan and others are relatively young.
Below are 15 public holidays in Japan.
- January 1 – New Year's Day
- Second Monday of January – Coming of Age Day
- February 11 – National Foundation Day
- Around March 20 – Vernal Equinox Day
- April 29 – Showa Day
- May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day
- May 4 – Greenery Day
- May 5 – Children's Day
- Third Monday of July – Marine Day
- Third Monday of September – Respect-for-the-Aged Day
- Around September 23 - Autumnal Equinox Day
- Second Monday of October – Health and Sports Day
- November 3 – Culture Day
- November 23 – Labour Thanksgiving Day
- December 23 – The Emperor's Birthday
The Public Holiday Law of 1948 became a basis for establishment of public holidays in Japan. Some provisions of the Law stipulate the order of transferring holidays from one day to another. For example, when a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the next Monday or working day shall become a public holiday. A very interesting point is determination of Vernal and Autumnal Equinox Days. It is the Japan National Observatory who determines exact dates of the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox Days for the next year by making necessary astronomical calculations and measurements on February 1 of the current year. In 2009, for instance, Vernal Equinox Day fell on March 20 and Autumnal Equinox Day – on September 23. Actually the holiday was changed to September 22 – in order to avoid the gap between two holidays (the first was Respect-for-the-Aged Day) and to extend series of holidays to four days.
Gradually the Public Holiday Law was amended to get the so called "long holidays” – linking a few holidays not to the fixed dates but to the definite day of week. Thus the Happy Monday System was adopted in Japan in 2000: Coming of Age Day originally held on January 15 was changed to the second Monday of January, Marine Day was changed from July 20 to the third Monday of July, Respect-for-the-Aged Day from September 15 to the third Monday of September, Health and Sports Day from October 10 to the second Monday of October. The latest amendment is being in force since 2007 when Showa Day was established instead of Greenery Day on April 29. Greenery Day was moved to May 4.
Probably it would take a lot of pages and even become boring for reading if I provide with description of every holiday in this article. My next publications will separately cover each public holiday in Japan.