2023 01/15

Essential Info - National Holidays in Japan

National holidays are the symbolic and representative cultural content of a country and nation. It is not only a vivid witness of social and historical development, but also a concentrated embodiment of the wisdom of people’s lives, the feelings of family, country unity, and the maintenance of social traditions.

Similar to many other countries, Japan as a country with a long historical background and unique cultural deposits, there are many national holidays that have been preserved nowadays.

If you happen to encounter Japanese national holidays during your visit to Japan, Congratulations, it is a great way to experience Japanese local customs and practices.

However, while you are immersed in the holiday atmosphere, there are certain things that you might want to keep in mind.

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to detailed information on Japanese national holidays and several things to know in advance.

The definition of "National holidays" to Japanese people

National holidays in Japan are established by the Public Holiday Law, which refers to those days for the people of Japan to celebrate, appreciate, or commemorate.

Surprisingly, Japan, a country that is often labeled as a stereotype of overworking, actually has a number of national holidays that exceed the world average.

According to the data provided by the Japanese government website, based on the year 2022, there are mainly 16 different national holidays per year in Japan.

In those days, it is possible for each and every citizen to spend a day off from normal work in order to reflect on the meanings and significance of the holidays in Japan.

In addition to that, when a national holiday falls on Sunday, the next day will automatically become a substitute day.

The explication of Japanese national holidays 

元旦 / Year's Day (January 1st)

The celebration of the beginning of a year, most people in Japan are likely to have three paid vacation days from January 1st to 3rd.

成人の日 / Coming-of-Age Day (January 10th / The second Monday in January)

A day to congratulate those young people who have reached the age of 20, as a symbol of becoming an adult. (*According to Japanese law, the age of the majority will be reduced from 20 to 18 years old)

建国記念の日 / National Foundation Day (February 11th)

This holiday is intended to commemorate the foundation of Japan as a nation marked by the first Japanese Emperor's ascent to the throne.

天皇誕生日 / The Emperor's Birthday (February 23rd)

The celebration day for the birthday of the present Emperor in Japan. A ceremony will be held in the Imperial Palace for the present Emperor and his family.

春分の日 / Vernal Equinox Day (March 21st)

A day for celebrating the beginning of spring in a year, temperature rises and nature wakes. It is also a day when daytime and nighttime are almost equal in length.

昭和の日 / Showa Day (April 29th)

It is a day for commemorating and looking back upon the occasions of the Showa era, which was ruled by Emperor Hirohito.

憲法記念日 / Constitution Day (May 3rd)

This holiday is intended as a commemoration day of the promulgation of the present constitution in Japan.

みどりの日 / Greenery Day (May 4th)

This holiday was once intended to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, however, now it is a day for people to be grateful and respectful to mother nature.

こどもの日 / Children's Day (May 5th)

This is a day to make wishes and pray for the happiness and healthy growth of children. The symbolic item of this day is the Japanese traditional carp-shaped streamer.

海の日 / Marine Day (July 18th)

It is the day for people to express their appreciation and respect for the ocean, and to pray for the prosperity of Japan as a maritime nation.

山の日 / Mountain Day (August 11th)

The purpose of this holiday is for people to be grateful and respectful of the great blessings from the mountains in Japan.

敬老の日 / Respect-for-the-Aged Day (September 19th)

Just as its name implies, people from the local government send little presents to the elderly on this day to express their love and respect for them.

秋分の日 / Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23rd)

A day for celebrating the beginning of spring in a year, it is also the day for people to commemorate their ancestors, recalling the deceased.

スポーツの日 / Sports Day (October 10th)

This holiday is intended to let people enjoy sports, cultivate a spirit of respect for others, and realize a healthy and vibrant society.

文化の日 / Culture Day (November 3rd)

The purpose of this holiday is to celebrate the culture, academia, and arts of Japan. On this day, many cultural events will be held throughout the nation.

勤労感謝の日 / Labor Thanksgiving Day (November 23rd)

It is the day for people to express their appreciation and respect for the benefits of labor and production.

Advice to keep in mind

Obon Holidays

Although the Obon period has not been officially proven as a national holiday, since it is a tradition for Japanese people to take vacations during this time to visit their hometowns, the Obon period sometimes gets more crowded than many other actual national holidays. Just like the Golden Week in Japan, the Obon holiday season is extremely congested not just for one day but for several days consecutively. Obon holidays in 2022 are from August 13th to around August 16th, however, there does not seem to be a fixed date for the Obon period, the timing may vary depending on regions and each year.

Golden Week 

Golden Week is the period from the end of April to the beginning of May, and there are many holidays and national holidays incoming within this specific period of time. Many people use this period of time to visit their hometown or go traveling, and there is a concentration of national holidays that is comparable to Obon holidays. Including Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children's Day, if Constitution Memorial Day or Greenery Day falls on a Sunday, a substitute holiday will be applied. For example, according to the newest data, the Golden Week of 2022 in Japan will start from Showa Day on April 29th (Friday) and will continue until May 8th. However, since May 2nd and 6th are weekdays, people are more likely to use their paid leaves on these two days in order to realize a 10 consecutive holiday schedule.

Summer/Winter Vacation

For most schools in Japan, students are allowed to have their summer vacation from mid-July to late August, and winter vacation from late December to early January, therefore, recreational facilities and sightseeing spots might be crowded during this time. In addition to that, for a few days from the end of March to the beginning of April, transportation and lodging facilities might be crowded due to the admission period of schools and companies in Japan for students and new graduates.

Government Institutions

Although according to the Public Holiday Law that national holidays have been proved as rest days for most business organizations, it is not a mandatory rule, some industries and companies in Japan seem to have their own holiday policy. However, it can almost be certain that institutions such as government offices, banks, schools, and post offices in Japan are closed during national holidays. In other words, please expect that those institutions might be very crowded for 1 to 2 days right before and after holidays, especially consecutive holidays. In addition, due to weekends, holidays, and consecutive holidays, there may be delays in mail delivery and bank transfer. Therefore, it is highly recommended to get things done at least 2 days before the arrival of national holidays if you are expecting yourself to use services from government institutions during national holidays.

Public Transportation

Since many companies and schools are closed on national holidays, unlike a normal weekday in Japan, trains usually will not be jammed with people who are heading to their workplaces or school very early in the morning on national holidays. However, please expect that trains will get crowded from 10 am to 11 am and from 16 pm to 18 pm. An obvious reason is that most people are more likely to have free time to go out or travel on holidays. Another reason is that the railway company usually reduces the number of train departures on weekends and national holidays to avoid unnecessary waste. Especially in metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Osaka, many train lines have separate schedules for weekdays and holidays including weekends, therefore, it is very necessary to check up railway timetables before traveling by any public transportation on national holidays.

Public Entertainment 

Different from government offices, banks, schools, and post offices, the arrival of national holidays means busy periods for some industries. It seems a universal business strategy that hotels or airline companies often set higher prices for their services during holiday seasons, and Japan is no exception. Another reason might be that in some industries in Japan, companies will be required to raise hourly wages compared to weekdays for those who work on holidays. Therefore, please notice that during national holidays in Japan, you might be charged an additional price for using services from industries such as hospitality, food & beverage, and entertainment. On the other hand, some museums and gardens are open to the public free of charge on national holidays, and events related to holidays are usually held. Please check with each facility in advance, as some facilities may extend their opening hours.