Golden Week in Japan

We all need a break sometimes. My coworkers in the EU often take time off in August, while I usually take part of the summer of with the family to see relatives in Japan. My company is a Japanese company so per tradition we also get the last week of the year off, ostensibly for New Year’s.

Japan is a place not known for vacations though. Office workers take long hours, and often shy away from taking personal time. Sure, they have personal time by law, but pressure from office culture tends to limit this.1

Thus, many people take time off during Golden Week (gōruden uīku, ゴールデンウィーク). Golden Week is a series of small nations holidays, each minor on its own, but appear on the same week, so people often use this as a reason to take time off.

The holidays in question are (source Wikipedia):

  • Showa Day (昭和の日, shōwa no hi) – a memorial to the late Showa Emperor (Hirohito). This holiday is observed on April 29th.
  • Constitution Day (憲法記念日, kenpō kinenbi) – a day to commemorate the modern constitution (kenpō) of Japan, which was original designed by US Occupation forces in 1946, but includes some novelties and innovations that the US Constitution lacks (explicit rights for women) as well as its renunciation of war.2 Observed on May 3rd.
  • Greenery Day (みどりの日, midori no hi) – this holiday ostensibly is a day to reflect on nature and such, but originally was celebrated as the birthday of the aforementioned Showa Emperor, who also happened to love plants as a hobby. It was also renamed following the ascension of his son, the Heisei Emperor. The significance of the late Showa emperor’s birthday has lessened over time anyway and the general appreciation of nature has taken over. Observed on May 4th.3
  • Children’s Day (子供の日, kodomo no hi) – I’ve touched on this holiday before. It is observed on May 5th, and is probably the most important.

You can see three of them listed on the calendar above, which we have at home.

Vacation travel soars this week, and congestion is everywhere. Sometimes other holidays which float around can further extend Golden Week up to 10 days long. It is for many Japanese workers, the longest week off they will enjoy in the year.

Whether you are in Japan, or overseas, hopefully you can catch some rest this time of year and enjoy the weather!

P.S. Tofugu has a great article on Golden Week too.

1 My sister in law, who is unmarried and works in the banking sector, had to take a lot of time off to care for her mother before she passed away. So people do take time off, but not always for leisure.

2 It replaces the 19th century, militaristic Constitution based on the Prussian model, which gave considerable power to the Emperor and made him sole authority of the military (they didn’t answer to the Cabinet). Check out this fun video series to learn more about Prussia, especially under Frederick the Great. While in college, I attended a lecture by the US Army secretary who helped draft the part of the constitution granting equal rights to women. She was a pretty amazing lady who dealt with a monumental task.

3 Of course, May the Fourth is important around here too. 😉

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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