You may have the impression that Japan is one of the countries in the world where people work a lot of overtime and don’t take a lot of paid holidays. However, Japan has relatively more national holidays than any other country in the world, with 16 days in a year, and sometimes people take paid holidays on weekdays near national holidays to make it a longer vacation.
If you know when these holidays and vacation seasons are, you will be able to arrange your task schedule, meeting days, and business trips more effectively.
In addition, when negotiating the contract, you can even make an excuse for the conclusion date, saying, “Let’s decide before the holidays so that you can enjoy the holidays.”
Now, let’s take a look at the specific periods and days that Japanese people take special holidays.
In China, Korea, Singapore and other Asian countries, vacation is celebrated every year from late January to February as Lunar (Chinese) New Year, but not in Japan. Instead, the holiday period is generally from December 29th to January 3rd. During this period, government agencies are closed, and many companies also take consecutive holidays.
This is the period from the end of April to the beginning of May when there are many national holidays. Specifically, April 29th, May 3rd, 4th, and 5th are national holidays, so many Japanese people take the weekdays before and after these vacations off as well, making it a long vacation.
From August 13th to 15th or 16th (depending on the region), this period is called Obon in Japan, and is believed to be the return of the ancestors from the Pure Land to the earth. This period is also commonly referred to as the summer vacation.
Once a year, we welcome our ancestors into our homes and spend time with them to pray for their souls and memorialize the spirits of our ancestors. ※In 2021, by taking paid vacations on August 10, 11, and 12, they will be able to have 10 consecutive holidays with weekends and national holidays. Please note that there are some companies and individuals who opt to take additional weekdays off to lengthen the vacation.
This occurs around the national holiday “Respect for the Aged Day” on the third Monday in September, which is three consecutive holidays. There is also another holiday, “Autumn Equinox Day” within a few days of Respect-for-the Aged Day. If Autumnal Equinox Day and Respect for the Aged Day are two days apart, the days between the two national holidays are considered national holidays by law, resulting in a maximum of five consecutive holidays. When there are five consecutive holidays in this way, it is called Silver Week. By the way, the next Silver Week will be in 2026.
The following days are designated as national holidays by the government resulting in government offices being closed.
|New Year’s Day (Gantan)||January 1||To celebrate the beginning of the year|
|Coming-of-Age Day(Seijin no hi)||Second Monday in January||To celebrate and encourage young people who are aware that they have become adults and are trying to survive on their own.|
|National Foundation Day(Kenkoku-kinenbi)||February 11||To commemorate the founding of our country and cultivate love for our country|
|Emperor’s Birthday Holiday(Tenno-Tanjoubi)||February 23||To celebrate the Emperor’s Birthday|
|Spring Equinox Day
|March 20 or 21||To honor nature and cherish living things. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is supposed to announce the following year’s spring equinox in February of the previous year, as this is the day when the length of daytime and nighttime are almost equal.|
|April 29||To reflect on the era of the Showa era, which saw the country’s recovery after turbulent times, and to think about the future of the country|
|Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpo-kinanbi)||May 3||To commemorate the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan and to mark the growth of the nation|
|May 4||To be familiar with nature, to appreciate its benefits, and to nurture a rich mind|
|May 5||To respect the personality of the child, to strive for the child’s happiness, and to be grateful to the mother.|
|Third Monday in July||To appreciate the blessings of the sea and wishing for the prosperity of Japan as a maritime nation ※2021 is an exception, as it has been moved to Thursday, July 22, the day before the scheduled opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.|
|August 11||To get a chance to get acquainted with the mountains and to appreciate their bounty.※ As an exception the year 2021 was changed to Sunday, August 8, the day of the (scheduled) closing ceremony of the Olympics. Therefore, Monday, August 9 will also be a national holiday as a substitute holiday.|
|Respect for the Aged Day
|Third Monday in September||To honor and celebrate the longevity of the elderly who have served society for many years.|
|Autumn equinox holiday
|Sep 22 or 23||To honor our ancestors and pay respect to those who have passed away. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) announces the date of the autumnal equinox in February of the previous year, when the daytime and nighttime are almost the same length.|
|Second Monday in October||To develop a healthy body and mind through sports. ※In 2021, the day will be moved to Friday, July 23, the day of the Olympic opening ceremony.|
|November 3||To love freedom and peace, and to promote culture|
|Labor Thanksgiving Day
|November 23||To honor work, celebrate production, and thank the people for each other’s efforts|
・If a national holiday falls on Sunday, a substitute holiday will be applied on Monday or later. If the national holiday falls on a Saturday, there will be no substitute holiday.
・The 2021 Olympic year will be an exception, with some holidays changing dates! The year 2021 is scheduled to host the Olympic Games, so Marine Day, Mountain Day, and Sports Day have been changed.
However, since the decision was made in December 2020, it is most likely not reflected in the 2021 calendar. Please be aware that even Japanese people may make mistakes.
Article 20 of the Constitution of Japan contains a provision on freedom of religion, which states that the state and religion do not grant privileges to any religion. Because of this, Christmas is a religious event, and if we as a country make it a national holiday, it would be a violation of the Constitution. Therefore, in Japan, Christmas Day is treated as a weekday as usual.
These are the periods when Japanese people take holidays, national holidays and special notes to remember. Make sure you have a good grasp of them so that you can make an efficient business schedule. The calendar with holidays for 2021 can be found below.