Japanese have many important days and public holidays, but not all the important days are holidays, and many are not fixed dates on the calendar. In this article, we summarize the Japanese Holidays for you along with links to related articles.
|Japanese Holidays||Date||2020||2021||2021 Proposal|
|New Year’s Day||1 Jan||1 Jan||1 Jan|
|Coming of Age Day||Second Monday of Jan||13 Jan||11 Jan|
|National Foundation Day||11 Feb||11 Feb||11 Feb|
|Emperor’s Birthday||23 Feb||23 Feb |
+ 24 Feb*
|23 Feb |
|Vernal Equinox Day||20 or 21Mar ||20 Mar ||20 Mar |
|Showa Day||29 Apr||29 Apr||29 Apr|
|Constitution Memorial Day||3 May||3 May||3 May|
|Greenery Day||4 May||4 May||4 May|
|Children’s Day||5 May||5 May|
+ 6 May*
|Marine Day||Third Monday of Jul||23 Jul||19 Jul||⇒ 22 Jul|
|Mountain Day||11 Aug||10 Aug||11 Aug||⇒ 8 Aug|
⇒ + 9 Aug*
|Respect for the Aged Day||Third Monday of Sep||21 Sep||20 Sep|
|Autumnal Equinox Day||22 or 23 Sep||22 Sep||23 Sep|
|Sports Day||Second Monday of Oct||24 Jul||11 Oct||⇒ 23 Jul|
|Culture Day||3 Nov||3 Nov||3 Nov|
|Labour Thanksgiving Day||23 Nov||23 Nov||23 Nov|
Japanese Holidays Sorted by Date
The Japanese Government has these days announced and written as a law to be public holidays. However, there is a law stating that, when a holiday falls on a Sunday, there will be a compensatory holiday on the next working day. If there is a day sandwiched by two public holidays, it will become Citizen’s Holiday as well.
New Year’s Day: 1st of January
Japanese people celebrate New Year’s Day (and New Year’s Eve) in their unique, traditional ways.
Coming of Age Day: Second Monday of January
The Coming of Age Ceremony is often held on this day, with some exceptions such as in the regions with heavy snow. Local governments will invite those turning 20 years old to participate in the ceremony at a local facility near their registered household addresses.
Read more: Coming of Age in Japan
National Foundation Day: 11th February
According to ancient Japanese mythology and compared to the Gregorian calendar, the nation was founded on this day. This was the old Japanese New Year’s Day on the lunisolar calendar.
Emperor’s Birthday: 23rd February
Previously 23rd of December during the Heisei era, but after the abdication of Emperor Heisei (Akihito), the date has changed to the birthday of Emperor Reiwa (Naruhito) from his enthronement onward. However, the Emperor’s Birthday was not celebrated in 2019 due to the timing of the abdication and enthronement.
Vernal Equinox Day: 20th or 21st of March (depending on the year)
Japan might be the only country in the world to celebrate Equinox days as public holidays, but this came from the belief that on Equinox days, spirits in the afterworld will come back to visit the mortal realm, so to ease the people visiting graves or holding memorial services during these period, Equinox days became public holidays.
Showa Day: 29th April
Originally the birthday of Emperor Showa (Hirohito), then later changed to Greenery Day after the end of his reign. However, Greenery Day was moved to the 4th of May to solidify the “Golden Week” collection of holidays, and the 29th of April was named "Showa Day".
Constitution Memorial Day: 3rd May
Celebrating the enactment of the 1947 Constitution of Japan, and the first holiday in “Golden Week”.
Greenery Day: 4th May
Previously a Citizen’s Holiday by law. But in 2007, Greenery Day was moved to the 4th of May while the 29th of April became Showa Day.
Children’s Day: 5th May
The last holiday in “Golden Week”, is the day for celebrating the health and growth of children, especially boys. Carp flags are raised during this celebration.
Read more: Children’s Day in Japan (Kodomo no hi)
Marine Day: Third Monday of July
Also known as “Ocean Day” or “Sea Day”, is the day to celebrate the blessing from the seas.
Mountain Day: 11th August
The newest public holiday celebrated from 2016 to honor the blessing of the mountains.
Respect for the Aged Day: Third Monday of September
The day for admiring the elderly people who have been in society for many years and celebrate their longevity. It is celebrated by offering a commemorative silver plate to any who are 100 years old. It is a part of the “Silver Week” holidays.
Read more: Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day
Autumnal Equinox Day: 22nd or 23rd of September (depending on the year)
Like Vernal Equinox Day, it is a day to respect ancestors and mourn for those who have passed away, and the date may be different between each year. It is a part of the “Silver Week” holidays.
Sports Day: Second Monday of October
Previously known as “Health and Sports Day”, it commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Culture Day: 3rd November
Commemorating the birthday of Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito), Culture day is often celebrated with festivities such as school festivals, art exhibitions and many more.
Labour Thanksgiving Day: 23rd of November
Originally a harvest festival day in the agricultural era. It was modernized postwar to promote the rights of workers. Note that while it is a public holiday, some schools or universities may operate as normal.
Holidays which had been moved for Tokyo Olympic 2020 and 2021
During 2020, a few holidays were scheduled to commemorate the Tokyo Olympic 2020, as follows:
- Marine Day: moved to the 23rd of July (to coincide with Opening Ceremony)
- Sports Day: moved to the 24th of July (extra day-off before weekends)
- Mountain Day: moved to the 8th of August (to coincide with Closing Ceremony)
With the rescheduling of the Tokyo Olympic, some predict that these holidays will be moved again in 2021. The proposal has been announced in May 2020, but not yet officially passed by the parliament. (Information as of Oct 2020)
What are the Japanese Long Holidays?
For both educational facilities and business, there are certain times of the year where they are closed or people are taking vacations to extend the breaks; these are known as long holidays. Here, we summarize the long holidays for you.
Winter Vacations and New Year Holiday Season
Known as Winter Vacations for students and New Year Holiday Season in general, it is the period from around the 23rd of December to the 7th of January, although many schools and business may have shorter breaks (such as the 28th of December to 4th of January). Public services and shops often start early to get the visitors/customers during their breaks.
For students, Spring Vacation is the period between the end of the second semester and the first semester of the next academic year. For college or university students, it starts from the beginning of February until the beginning of April for a total of two months, while for school students, it may start around the 21st of March and ends on the 7th of April or sooner.
Golden Week is a period starting around the 29th of April (Showa Day) to the consecutive holidays from the 3rd to the 5th of May (Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, Children’s Day). Many business or institutes may grant their workers / students even more days off by closing from the 29th of April (Showa Day) until the end of Golden Week. For businesses not closing between the 30th of April to the 2nd of May, the workers may use their own paid time off to extend their holidays.
School students enjoy the long vacations between their first and second semesters from the middle of July to the end of August. For some colleges/universities, the second semester may start after Silver Week, thus they can enjoy a two month vacation.
Obon Holiday Season
Coincides with children’s summer vacations, adults also enjoy Obon Holiday Season granted by their business or employers. Depending on the business, some may offer a flexible day off, fixed holidays from the 13th to 15th of August, or a whole week off. People often take their families to visit their ancestors in their hometowns and burial sites.
Silver Week refers to the consecutive holidays centered around Respect for the Aged Day and Autumnal Equinox Day. Each year may vary, since Respect for the Aged Day only falls on Monday while Autumnal Equinox Day is fixed on either the 21st or 22nd of September: if there is one day between them, that day will become Citizen’s Holiday by the law, and workers only need to use two days’ worth of paid time off to get the whole week break.
For students, the period between the 1st and 3rd of November or the closest weekends are often the days for School Festivals, and while there is no class to attend, some are required to attend the school festival and write reports or participate in some of the activities.
What to do during Japanese Holidays?
Many tourism-related facilities may operate as normal on these holidays to accommodate the increased number of visitors, and close on the next working day instead, except for New Year's Holiday Season (mostly just on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day). So, if you visit Japan during the holidays, you can still enjoy many tourist spots, but beware of overcrowding and long wait times.
Also, many of these holidays have unique events or festivals, such as school festivals or firework festivals, so if you visit Japan during such times, go enjoy them!