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Japan’s National Holidays
[2015.04.12] Read in: FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL | العربية | Русский |

Japan’s national holidays celebrate its people, culture, and natural scenery. Learn the names of the holidays and the dates on which they fall in this month-by-month guide.

Japan currently has 15 national holidays scattered throughout the year. On these days schools and public offices are closed, and many employers give workers the day off. At present, June and August are the only months without national holidays, but in 2016 that will change with the introduction of Yama no hi (Mountain Day) on August 11, leaving only June holiday-free.

Golden Week and Silver Week

Four of the holidays cluster together at the end of April and the start of May to form Golden Week, a popular time for travel when hotels and other accommodation, as well as airlines and long-distance trains, get booked up well in advance.

▼Further reading

Customs, Festivals, and Observances: The Japanese Year
The festivals and customs that mark each season.

Many national holidays are set to take place on Mondays, but others are fixed on specific dates. If one of these dates falls on a Sunday, then the following Monday becomes a holiday, ensuring that people get a day off. (If it falls on a Saturday—once a school day in Japan—there is no compensatory replacement day, though.)

In 2015, as September 21 and 23 were both national holidays, there was an extra national holiday on September 22. This “bonus” holiday only occurs when an ordinary working day happens to fall between two holidays, and was first given in 2009, forming “Silver Week.” It was the second Silver Week ever, following the first in 2009.

National Holidays Through the Year

Ganjitsu (New Year’s Day): January 1

The most important holiday of the year and a time for families to get together. Many visit a shrine on this day to pay their first respects of the year.

Seijin no hi (Coming of Age Day): Second Monday of January

(January 11, 2016; January 9, 2017)
A celebration for those young people who have turned 20 and officially become adults during the previous year.

New adults in their finest kimono on Coming of Age Day.

Kenkoku kinen no hi (National Foundation Day): February 11

A celebration of the legendary foundation of Japan, said to have taken place in 660 BC, according to the eighth-century Nihon shoki (Chronicle of Japan).

Shunbun no hi (Vernal Equinox Day): March 20 or 21

(March 20, 2016 (observed on Monday March 21, 2016); March 20, 2017)
Established as a day for appreciating nature and living creatures.

Shōwa no hi (Shōwa Day): April 29

Named after Emperor Shōwa, who was born on April 29, 1901.

Kenpō kinenbi (Constitution Memorial Day): May 3

A commemoration of the enactment of Japan’s postwar Constitution on May 3, 1947.

Midori no hi (Greenery Day): May 4

A celebration of plants and the natural world.

Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day): May 5

On the same day as the traditional festival tango no sekku, when parents once gave thanks for the healthy growth of boys, this national holiday celebrates both boys and girls.

Carp streamers fluttering in the breeze are a symbol of Children’s Day.

Umi no hi (Marine Day): Third Monday of July

(July 18, 2016; July 17, 2017)
A day for island nation Japan to show appreciation for the seas and oceans.

Yama no hi (Mountain Day): August 11

A new holiday to take place for the first time in 2016, celebrating the nation’s peaks.

Keirō no hi (Respect for the Aged Day): Third Monday of September

(September 19, 2016; September 18, 2017)
A day for recognizing Japanese seniors.

Shūbun no hi (Autumnal Equinox Day): September 22 or 23

(September 22, 2016; September 23, 2017)
Established as a day for honoring ancestors and remembering the dead.

Taiiku no hi (Health and Sports Day): Second Monday of October

(October 10, 2016; October 9, 2017)
Many schools hold their sports festivals on or around this date.

Olympic weightlifter Yagi Kanae warms up with children at a Tokyo event marking 2013’s Health and Sports Day. (© Jiji)

Bunka no hi (Culture Day): November 3

This day, which seeks to promote cultural activities, replaced an earlier national holiday commemorating Emperor Meiji’s birthday.

Kinrō kansha no hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day): November 23

A day for honoring the nation’s workers.

Tennō Tanjōbi (The Emperor’s Birthday): December 23

A celebration of Emperor Akihito’s birthday in 1933.

Well-wishers gather to see Emperor Akihito at a public ceremony at the Imperial Palace on December 23, 2012.

Photo Credits:

Coming of Age Day: Derek A.
Children’s Day: Matthew Bednarik
Emperor’s Birthday: Alessandro Baffa

  • [2015.04.12]
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