Japan’s National Public Holidays

by Paul Goodchild

There are quite a few public holidays in Japan… there are some special days though which are not national public holidays but are typically taken as holidays by the Japanese.  Below is a quick list of the dates for official national holidays. 

  • January, 1st: New Year’s Day
  • January, the 2nd Monday: Coming of Age Day
  • February, 11th: National Foundation Day
  • March, 20th or 21st: Spring Equinox Day
  • April, 29th: Showa Day
  • May, 3rd: Constitution Memorial Day
  • May, 4th: Greenery Day
  • May, 5th: Children’s Day
  • June: no national holiday
  • July, 3rd: Ocean Day
  • August: no national holiday (see below)
  • September, the 3rd Monday: Respect for the Aged Day
  • September, 23rd: Autumn Equinox Day
  • October, the 2nd Monday: Sports Day
  • November, 3rd: Culture Day
  • November, 23rd: Labour Thanksgiving Day
  • December, 23rd: The Current Emperor’s Birthday

Two noteworthy holidays are Golden Week and Obon. Golden Week is the common term used by the Japanese to refer to the string of holidays at the beginning of May, and usually includes the single day at the end of April depending on when it falls.  It is very common at this time for the Japanese to take vacation as it’s 3 congruent days that they all have off.  This is good and bad… the bad being that traveling in and around this time incurs a premium.  Expect to pay significant more on flights and accommodation during this period.

The other significant period in the Japanese calendar is in mid-late August, 13th ~ 16th and is called the Bon Festival.  There is however no official national public holiday at this time, but it is at this point that many Japanese will take their summer vacation.  It is based on the Buddhist tradition whereby ancestors’ spirits return to their homes to be reunited with their family.  Clearly a very important event in the Japanese family calendar and many will take vacation from work to go home for this.

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