Spring National Holidays in Japan

Children's day

Children’sday decorations ©ark/Flickr

Officially, Japan has 15 national holidays every year. Most of these holidays are celebrated during spring, when nature starts to get alive again. National or public holidays are usually free days; almost everyone stays at home with their families.

In Japan, when a holiday falls on Sunday, the following Monday is also free. When one day falls between two public holidays, that day is also free. That’s how Greenery Day (4 May) became a national holiday. In the following sections you can read some general information about Japan’s spring holidays and about the Golden Week, one of the most important weeks of the Japanese Calendar.

Vernal Equinox Day

Equinox

Spring: apricot blossoms ©daveeza/Flickr

Vernal Equinox Day (or Shunbun no Hi) celebrates the Northward Equinox in Japan. Usually it falls on 20 or 21 March. Because of some astronomical observations, the exact date of this holiday is announced in February of the previous year.

This day consists of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. It is mostly celebrated in Buddhist temples all around the country: special services and performances are held on the Vernal Equinox Day.

 

Showa Day

Showa day

Showa day events ©Summon Baka/Flickr

Showa Day is the first day of the Japanese Golden Week. The week between 29 April and 5 May includes four public holidays and that’s why it is called Golden Week (Ogon Shukan) or Large Consecutive Holiday (Ogata Renkyu).

Showa Day (April 29) celebrates the birthday of the former Showa Emperor (emperor of Japan between 1926-1989). Until 1989, it was the Emperor’s Birthday and until 2000 the Greenery Day was celebrated on 29 April. Finally, it was decided to be Showa Day and Greenery day was moved on 4 May.

 

Constitution Memorial Day

Constitution

Golden Week events in Japan ©Summon Baka/Flickr

Constitution Memorial Day or Kenpo Kinenbi is celebrated on 3 May and it is also part of the Golden Week. It resounds the enunciation of the Constitution in 1947, replacing the Constitution of the Meiji Era. It is also said that Constitution Memorial Day reflects the democratic policy of Japan.

 

Greenery Day

Greeney

Korakuen Garden, a beautiful place to visit on Greenery Day ©hatch.m/Flickr

Greenery Day (or Midori no Hi) is celebrated on 4 May from 2000, when it was ‘switched’ with Showa Day. The main reason why this day became a holiday is that it falls between two public holidays and according to Japanese traditions, it should also be a free day.

As the name of the holidays tell us, on this day people should bless nature and the environment. It is also associated with Showa Emperor’s love for plants. Practically, this day is not celebrated, it is just a ‘silent’ day of the Golden Week. Although, many families visit parks and gardens on this day, to celebrate the beauty of  nature.

 

Children’s Day

Children's day

Carp streamers on Children’s Day ©ark/Flickr

Children’s Day or Kodomo no Hi takes place on 5 May, the last day of the Golden Week. Previously it was called Tango no Sekku, until Japan had switched to the Gregorian calendar.

On this day families usually celebrate their children. Families with boys fly streamers (koinobori) and expose warrior dolls in the house. The carp-shaped streamers represent strength and success. The carps also represent the members of the family: the bigger ones stand for the parents and the smaller ones for the children. On Children’s Day several events are held for children all around Japan.

 

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