Japanese calendar

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1729 calendar, which used the Jokyo calendar procedure, published by Ise Grand Shrine Jokyo-reki.jpg
1729 calendar, which used the Jōkyō calendar procedure, published by Ise Grand Shrine

Japanese calendar types have included a range of official and unofficial systems. At present, Japan uses the Gregorian calendar together with year designations stating the year of the reign of the current Emperor. [1] The written form starts with the year, then the month and finally the day, coinciding with the ISO 8601 standard.


For example, February 16, 2003, can be written as either 2003年2月16日 or 平成15年2月16日 (the latter following the regnal year system). 年 reads nen and means "year", 月 reads gatsu and means "month", and finally 日 (usually) reads nichi (its pronunciation depends on the number that precedes it, see below) and means "day".

Prior to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1873, the reference calendar was based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar.


Japanese Calendar (woodcut, 1867) Japanese-Calendar-Color-Woodcut-1867.png
Japanese Calendar (woodcut, 1867)

Over the centuries, Japan has used up to four systems for designating years: [2] the Chinese sexagenary cycle, the era name (元号, gengō) system, the Japanese imperial year (皇紀, kōki, or 紀元kigen) and the Western Common Era ( Anno Domini ) (西暦, seireki) system. In the 21st century, however, the era system (gengo) and Western system (seireki) are the only ones still widely used.

Chinese Calendar

The lunisolar Chinese calendar was introduced to Japan via Korea in the middle of the sixth century. After that, Japan calculated its calendar using various Chinese calendar procedures, and from 1685, using Japanese variations of the Chinese procedures. [3] [4] Its sexagenary cycle was often used together with era names, as in the 1729 Ise calendar shown above, which is for "the 14th year of Kyōhō, tsuchi-no-to no tori", i.e., 己酉.

In modern times, the old Chinese calendar is virtually ignored; celebrations of the Lunar New Year are thus limited to Chinese and other Asian immigrant communities. However, its influence can still be felt in the idea of "lucky and unlucky days" (described below), the traditional meanings behind the name of each month, and other features of modern Japanese calendars.

Era Names (gengō)

The era name (元号, gengō) system was also introduced from China, and has been in continuous use since AD 701. [5] The reigning Emperor chooses the name associated with their regnal eras; before 1868, multiple names were chosen throughout the same emperor's rule, such as to commemorate a major event. [6] For instance, the Emperor Kōmei's reign (1846–1867) was split into seven eras, one of which lasted only one year. [6] Starting with Kōmei's grandson the Emperor Taishō in 1912, there has only been one gengō per emperor representing their entire reign.

The nengō system remains in wide use, especially on official documents and government forms. [7] It is also in general use in private and personal business.

The present era, Reiwa, formally began on 1 May 2019. [8] [9] [10] The name of the new era was announced by the Japanese government on 1 April 2019, a month prior to Naruhito's succession to the throne. [11] [12] [10] The previous era, Heisei, came to an end on 30 April 2019, after Japan's former emperor, Akihito, abdicated the throne. [8] [9] [10] Reiwa is the first era name whose characters come from a Japanese root source; prior eras' names were taken from Chinese classic literature. [13] [8] [14]

Japanese Imperial Years (kōki or kigen)

The Japanese imperial year (皇紀, kōki, or 紀元kigen) is based on the date of the legendary founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. [15] For instance, 660 BC is counted as Kōki 1.

It was first used in the official calendar in 1873. [16] Kōki 2600 (1940) was a special year. The 1940 Summer Olympics and Tokyo Expo were planned as anniversary events, but were canceled due to the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese naval Zero Fighter was named after this year. After the Second World War , the United States occupied Japan, and stopped the use of kōki by officials. [17]

Today, kōki is rarely used, except in some judicial contexts. [17] Usage of kōki dating can be a nationalist signal, pointing out that the history of Japan's imperial family is longer than that of Christianity, the basis of the Anno Domini (AD) system.

The 1898 law determining the placement of leap years [18] is officially based on the kōki years, using a formula that is effectively equivalent to that of the Gregorian calendar: if the kōki year number is evenly divisible by four, it is a leap year, unless the number minus 660 is evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400. Thus, for example, the year Kōki 2560 (AD 1900) is divisible by 4; but 2560 − 660 = 1900, which is evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400, so kōki 2560 (1900) was not a leap year, just as in most of the rest of the world.

Gregorian Calendar (seireki)

The Western Common Era ( Anno Domini ) (西暦, seireki) system, based on the solar Gregorian calendar, was first introduced in 1873 as part of the Japan's Meiji period modernization. [19] [3]

Nowadays, Japanese people know it as well as the regnal eras.

Divisions of time


There are four seasons corresponding to the West's:

English nameJapanese nameRomanisationTraditional dates
SpringharuFebruary 5 – May 6
SummernatsuMay 7 – August 8
FallakiAugust 9 – November 7
WinterfuyuNovember 8 – February 4

However, there is also a traditional system of 72 microseasons ( ()), consisting of 24 solar terms (Japanese : 節気; rōmaji : sekki) each divided into three sets of five days, [20] [21] [22] and with specially-named days or Zassetsu (雑節) indicating the start and end of each. This system was adapted from the Chinese in 1685 by court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai, rewriting the names to better match the local climate and nature in his native Japan. [20] [21] Each ko has traditional customs, festivals, foods, flowers and birds associated with it. [22] [23] One can nowadays download an app to learn about and follow along with these "micro-seasons," [24] [25] listed below:

The 24 sekki

Microseason NumberTraditional DatesJapanese NameRomanizationEnglish Meaning
Risshun (立春) (Beginning of Spring)
1February 4–8東風解凍Harukaze kōri o tokuThe east wind melts the thick ice.
2February 9–13黄鶯睍睆Kōō kenkan suBush warblers sing in the countryside.
3February 14–18魚上氷Uo kōri o izuruIce cracks, allowing fish to emerge.
Usui (雨水) (Rain Water)
4February 19–23土脉潤起Tsuchi no shō uruoi okoruRain falls, moistening the soil.
5February 24–28霞始靆Kasumi hajimete tanabikuMist lies over the land.
6March 1–5草木萌動Sōmoku mebae izuruTrees and plants put forth buds.
Keichitsu (啓蟄) (Insects Awakening)
7March 6–10蟄虫啓戸Sugomori mushito o hirakuHibernating insects emerge.
8March 11–15桃始笑Momo hajimete sakuPeach trees begin to bloom.
9March 16–20菜虫化蝶Namushi chō to naruCabbage whites emerge from their cocoons.
Shunbun (春分) (Spring Equinox)
10March 21–25雀始巣Suzume hajimete sukūSparrows begin building their nests.
11March 26–30櫻始開Sakura hajimete sakuCherry blossoms begin to bloom.
12March 31–April 4雷乃発声Kaminari sunawachi koe o hassuThunder rumbles far away.
Seimei (清明) (Fresh Green)
13April 5–9玄鳥至Tsubame kitaruSwallows return from the south.
14April 10–14鴻雁北Kōgan kaeruWild geese fly north.
15April 15–19虹始見Niji hajimete arawaruRainbows begin to appear.
Kokuu (穀雨) (Grain Rain)
16April 20–24葭始生Ashi hajimete shōzuReeds begin to sprout.
17April 25–29霜止出苗Shimo yamite nae izuruRice seedlings grow.
18April 30–May 4牡丹華Botan hana sakuPeonies bloom.
Rikka (立夏) (Beginning of Summer)
19May 5–9蛙始鳴Kawazu hajimete nakuFrogs begin croaking.
20May 10–14蚯蚓出Mimizu izuruWorms wriggle to the surface.
21May 15–20竹笋生Takenoko shōzuBamboo shoots sprout.
Shōman (小満) (Lesser Fullness)
22May 21–25蚕起食桑Kaiko okite kuwa o hamuSilkworms feast on mulberry leaves.
23May 26–30紅花栄Benibana sakauSafflowers bloom in abundance.
24May 31–June 5麦秋至Mugi no toki itaruBarley ripens, ready to be harvested.
Bōshu (芒種) (Grain in Ear)
25June 6–10蟷螂生Kamakiri shōzuPraying mantises hatch and come forth.
26June 11–15腐草為螢Kusaretaru kusa hotaru to naruFireflies fly out from moist grass.
27June 16–20梅子黄Ume no mi kibamuPlums ripen, turning yellow.
Geshi (夏至) (Summer Solstice)
28June 21–26乃東枯Natsukarekusa karuruPrunella flowers wither.
29June 27–July 1菖蒲華Ayame hana sakuIrises bloom.
30July 2–6半夏生Hange shōzuCrowdipper sprouts.
Shōsho (小暑) (Lesser Heat)
31July 7–11温風至Atsukaze itaruWarm winds blow.
32July 12–16蓮始開Hasu hajimete hirakuLotuses begin to bloom.
33July 17–22鷹乃学習Taka sunawachi waza o narauYoung hawks learn to fly.
Taisho (大暑) (Greater Heat)
34July 23–28桐始結花Kiri hajimete hana o musubuPaulownia trees begin to produce seeds.
35July 29–August 2土潤溽暑Tsuchi uruōte mushi atsushiThe ground is damp, the air hot and humid.
36August 3–7大雨時行Taiu tokidoki furuHeavy rains fall.
Risshū (立秋) (Beginning of Autumn)
37August 8–12涼風至Suzukaze itaruCool winds blow.
38August 13–17寒蝉鳴Higurashi nakuEvening cicadas begin to sing.
39August 18–22蒙霧升降Fukaki kiri matōThick fog blankets the land.
Shosho (処暑) Shosho (End of Heat)
40August 23–27綿柎開Wata no hana shibe hirakuCotton bolls open.
41August 28–September 1天地始粛Tenchi hajimete samushiThe heat finally relents.
42September 2–7禾乃登Kokumono sunawachi minoruRice ripens.
Hakuro (白露) (White Dew)
43September 8–12草露白Kusa no tsuyu shiroshiWhite dew shimmers on the grass.
44September 13–17鶺鴒鳴Sekirei nakuWagtails begin to sing.
45September 18–22玄鳥去Tsubame saruSwallows return to the south.
Shūbun (秋分) (Autumnal Equinox)
46September 23–27雷乃収声Kaminari sunawachi koe o osamuThunder comes to an end.
47September 28–October 2蟄虫坏戸Mushi kakurete to o fusaguInsects close up their burrows.
48October 3–7水始涸Mizu hajimete karuruFields are drained of water.
Kanro (寒露) (Cold Dew)
49October 8–12鴻雁来Kōgan kitaruWild geese begin to fly back.
50October 13–17菊花開Kiku no hana hirakuChrysanthemums bloom.
51October 18–22蟋蟀在戸Kirigirisu to ni ariCrickets chirp by the door.
Sōkō (霜降) (First Frost)
52October 23–27霜始降Shimo hajimete furuFrost begins to form.
53October 28–November 1霎時施Kosame tokidoki furuDrizzling rain falls gently.
54November 2–6楓蔦黄Momiji tsuta kibamuMaple leaves and ivy turn yellow.
Rittō (立冬) (Beginning of Winter)
55November 7–11山茶始開Tsubaki hajimete hirakuSasanqua camellias begin to bloom.
56November 12–16地始凍Chi hajimete kōruThe land begins to freeze.
57November 17–21金盞香Kinsenka sakuDaffodils bloom.
Shōsetsu (小雪) (Light Snow)
58November 22–26虹蔵不見Niji kakurete miezuRainbows disappear.
59November 27–December 1朔風払葉Kitakaze konoha o harauThe north wind blows leaves off the trees.
60December 2–6橘始黄Tachibana hajimete kibamuTachibana citrus trees begin to turn yellow.
Taisetsu (大雪) (Heavy Snow)
61December 7–11閉塞成冬Sora samuku fuyu to naruThe skies stay cold as winter arrives.
62December 12–16熊蟄穴Kuma ana ni komoruBears hide away in their dens to hibernate.
63December 17–21鱖魚群Sake no uo muragaruSalmon swim upstream en masse.
Tōji (冬至) (Winter Solstice)
64December 22–26乃東生Natsukarekusa shōzuPrunella sprouts.
65December 27–31麋角解Sawashika no tsuno otsuruDeer shed their antlers.
66January 1–4雪下出麦Yuki watarite mugi nobiruBarley sprouts under the snow.
Shōkan (小寒) (Lesser Cold)
67January 5–9芹乃栄Seri sunawachi sakauParsley thrives.
68January 10–14水泉動Shimizu atataka o fukumuSprings once frozen flow once more.
69January 15–19雉始雊Kiji hajimete nakuCock pheasants begin to call.
Daikan (大寒) (Greater Cold)
70January 20–24款冬華Fuki no hana sakuButterburs put forth buds.
71January 25–29水沢腹堅Sawamizu kōri tsumeruMountain streams gain a cover of thick ice.
72January 30–February 3鶏始乳Niwatori hajimete toya ni tsukuHens begin to lay eggs.


Zassetsu (雑節) is a collective term for special seasonal days within the 24 sekki.

February 3節分 Setsubun The eve of Risshun by one definition.
March 18–March 24春彼岸Haru higanThe seven days surrounding Shunbun.
Vernal Equinox day春社日Haru shanichiIn Shinto. 彼岸中日 (Higan Chunichi) in Buddhism.
May 2八十八夜Hachijū hachiyaLiterally meaning 88 nights (since Risshun).
June 11入梅NyūbaiLiterally meaning entering tsuyu.
July 2半夏生HangeshōOne of the 72 . Farmers take five days off in some regions.
July 15中元 Chūgen Officially July 15. August 15 in many regions (Tsuki-okure).
July 20夏の土用Natsu no doyōCustom of eating eel on this day.
September 1二百十日Nihyaku tōkaLiterally meaning 210 days (since Risshun).
September 11二百二十日Nihyaku hatsukaLiterally meaning 220 days.
September 20–September 26秋彼岸Aki higanThe seven days surrounding Shūbun.
Autumal Equinox秋社日Aki shanichiIn Shinto. 彼岸中日 in Buddhism.

Shanichi dates can vary by as much as 5 days. Chūgen has a fixed day. All other days can vary by one day.

Many zassetsu days occur in multiple seasons:

  • Doyō (土用) refers to the 18 days before each season, especially the one before fall which is known as the hottest period of a year.
  • Higan (彼岸) is the seven middle days of spring and autumn, with Shunbun at the middle of the seven days for spring, Shūbun for fall.
  • Shanichi (社日) is the Tsuchinoe () day closest to Shunbun (middle of spring) or Shūbun (middle of fall), which can be as much as 5 days before to 4 days after Shunbun/Shūbun.

The term Setsubun (節分) originally referred to the eves of Risshun (立春, 315°, the beginning of Spring), Rikka (立夏, 45°, the beginning of Summer), Risshū (立秋, 135°, the beginning of Autumn), and Rittō (立冬, 225°, the beginning of Winter); however, it now only refers to the day before Risshun.


This mural on the wall of Shin-Ochanomizu subway station in Tokyo celebrates Hazuki, the eighth month. ShinOchaEkiMuralHachigatsu8540.jpg
This mural on the wall of Shin-Ochanomizu subway station in Tokyo celebrates Hazuki, the eighth month.

As mentioned above, the Japanese calendar used to be based on an adaptation of the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins 3 to 7 weeks later than the Gregorian. In other words, the Gregorian "first month" and the Chinese "first month" do not align, which is important in historical contexts.

The "traditional names" for each month, shown below, are still used by some in fields such as poetry; of the twelve, Shiwasu is still widely used today. The opening paragraph of a letter or the greeting in a speech might borrow one of these names to convey a sense of the season. Some, such as Yayoi and Satsuki , do double duty as given names (for women). These month names also appear from time to time on jidaigeki , contemporary television shows and movies set in the Edo period or earlier.

The Japanese names for the modern Gregorian months literally translate to "first month", "second month", and so on. The corresponding number is combined with the suffix (-gatsu, "month"). The table below uses traditional numerals, but the use of Western numerals (1月, 2月, 3月 etc.) is common.

A Japanese calendar from 2011 depicting the month of December (shiwasu Shi Zou ) Japanese calendar december.jpg
A Japanese calendar from 2011 depicting the month of December (shiwasu 師走)
English nameCommon Japanese nameTraditional Japanese name
January一月 (ichigatsu)Mutsuki (睦月, "Month of Love," alternatively "Month of Affection"). [26]
February二月 (nigatsu)Kisaragi (如月) or Kinusaragi (衣更着, "Changing Clothes"). [26]
March三月 (sangatsu)Yayoi (弥生, "New Life"). [26]
April四月 (shigatsu)Uzuki (卯月, "u-no-hana month"). [26] The u-no-hana (卯の花) is a flower, of the genus Deutzia . [27]
May五月 (gogatsu)Satsuki (皐月) or Sanaetsuki (早苗月, "Early-rice-planting Month"). [26]
June六月 (rokugatsu)Minazuki (水無月, "Month of Water"). The character, which normally means "absent" or "there is no", is ateji here, and is only used for the na sound. In this name the na is actually a possessive particle, so minazuki means "month of water", not "month without water", and this is in reference to the flooding of the rice fields, which require large quantities of water. [28]
July七月 (shichigatsu)Fumizuki (文月, "Month of Erudition"). [26]
August八月 (hachigatsu)Hazuki (葉月, "Month of Leaves"). In old Japanese, the month was called 葉落ち月 (Haochizuki, or "Month of Falling Leaves"). [26]
September九月 (kugatsu)Nagatsuki (長月, "The Long Month"). [26]
October十月 (jūgatsu)Kannazuki or Kaminazuki (神無月, Month of the Gods). The character, which normally means "absent" or "there is not", was here probably originally used as an ateji for the possessive particle na, so Kaminazuki may have originally meant "Month of the Gods", not "Month without Gods" (Kaminakizuki), similarly to Minatsuki, the "Month of Water". [29] However, by what may be false etymology, the name became commonly interpreted to mean that, because in that month all the Shinto kami gather at Izumo shrine in Izumo Province (modern-day Shimane Prefecture), there are no gods in the rest of the country. Thus in Izumo Province, the month is called Kamiarizuki (神有月 or 神在月, "Month with Gods"). [30] Various other etymologies have also been suggested from time to time. [31]
November十一月 (jūichigatsu)Shimotsuki (霜月, "Month of Frost"). [26]
December十二月 (jūnigatsu)Shiwasu (師走, "Priests Running"). This is in reference to priests being busy at the end of the year for New Year's preparations and blessings. [26]

Division of the Month


Japan uses a seven-day week, aligned with the Western calendar. The seven-day week, with names for the days corresponding to the Latin system, was brought to Japan around AD 800 with the Buddhist calendar. The system was used for astrological purposes and little else until 1876.

Much like in multiple European languages, in which the names for weekdays are, partially or fully, based on what the Ancient Romans considered the seven visible planets, meaning the five visible planets and the sun and the moon, in The Far East the five visible planets are named after the five Chinese elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth.) On the origin of the names of the days of the week, also see East Asian Seven Luminaries.

JapaneseRomanizationElement (planet)English name
火曜日kayōbiFire (Mars)Tuesday
水曜日suiyōbiWater (Mercury)Wednesday
木曜日mokuyōbiWood (Jupiter)Thursday
金曜日kin'yōbiMetal (Venus)Friday
土曜日doyōbiEarth (Saturn)Saturday

Sunday and Saturday are regarded as "Western style take-a-rest days". Since the late 19th century, Sunday has been regarded as a "full-time holiday", and Saturday a half-time holiday (半ドン). These holidays have no religious meaning (except those who believe in Christianity or Judaism). Many Japanese retailers do not close on Saturdays or Sundays, because many office workers and their families are expected to visit the shops during the weekend. An old Imperial Japanese Navy song ( 月月火水木金金 ) says "Mon Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Fri!" which means "We work throughout the entire week".[ further explanation needed ]

10-Days (jun)

Japanese people also use 10-day periods called jun (). Each month is divided into two 10-day periods and a third with the remaining 8 to 11 days:

  • The first (from the 1st to the 10th) is jōjun (上旬, upper jun)
  • The second (from the 11th to the 20th), chūjun (中旬, middle jun)
  • The last (from the 21st to the end of the month), gejun (下旬, lower jun). [32]

These are frequently used to indicate approximate times, for example, "the temperatures are typical of the jōjun of April"; "a vote on a bill is expected during the gejun of this month." The magazine Kinema Junpo was originally published once every jun (i.e. three times a month). [33]


The table below shows dates written with traditional numerals, but use of Arabic numerals (1日, 2日, 3日, etc.) is extremely common in everyday communication, almost the norm.

Day numberJapanese nameRomanisation
Day numberJapanese nameRomanisation

Each day of the month has a semi-systematic name. The days generally use kun (native Japanese) numeral readings up to ten, and thereafter on (Chinese-derived) readings, but there are some irregularities.

Tsuitachi is a worn-down form of tsuki-tachi (月立ち), literally "month start." The last day of the month was called tsugomori, which means "Moon hidden." This classical word comes from the tradition of the lunisolar calendar.

The 30th was also traditionally called misoka, just as the 20th is called hatsuka. Nowadays, the terms for the numbers 28–31 plus nichi are much more common. However, misoka is much used in contracts, etc., specifying that a payment should be made on or by the last day of the month, whatever the number is. New Year's Eve is known as Ōmisoka (大晦日, big 30th), and that term is still in use.

As mentioned below, there is traditional belief that some days are lucky (kichijitsu) or unlucky. For example, there are some who will avoid beginning something on an unlucky day. [34]

Holidays and other notable days

April 1

The first day of April has broad significance in Japan. It marks the beginning of the government's fiscal year. [35] Many corporations follow suit. In addition, corporations often form or merge on that date. In recent years, municipalities have preferred it for mergers. On this date, many new employees begin their jobs, and it is the start of many real-estate leases. The school year begins on April 1.


The rokuyō (六曜) are a series of six days calculated from the date of Chinese calendar that supposedly predict whether there will be good or bad fortune during that day. The rokuyō are commonly found on Japanese calendars and are often used to plan weddings and funerals, though most people ignore them in ordinary life. The rokuyō are also known as the rokki (六輝). In order, they are:

先勝SenshōGood luck before noon, bad luck after noon. Good day for beginnings (in the morning).
友引TomobikiYour friends may be "drawn-in" towards good and evil. Funerals are avoided on this day (tomo = friend, biki = pull, thus a funeral might pull friends toward the deceased). Typically crematoriums are closed this day. But, for instance, weddings are fine on this day.
先負SenbuBad luck before noon, good luck after noon.
仏滅ButsumetsuSymbolizes the day Buddha died. Considered the most unlucky day.[ citation needed ] Weddings are best avoided. Some Shinto shrines close their offices on this day.
大安TaianThe most lucky day. Good day for weddings and events like shop openings.
赤口ShakkōThe hour of the horse (11 am to 1 pm) is lucky. The rest is bad luck.

The rokuyō days are easily calculated from the Japanese lunisolar calendar. The first day of the first month is always senshō, with the days following in the order given above until the end of the month. Thus, the 2nd day is tomobiki, the 3rd is senbu, and so on. The 1st day of the 2nd month restarts the sequence at tomobiki. The 3rd month restarts at senbu, and so on for each month. The latter six months repeat the patterns of the first six, so the 1st of the 7th is senshō, the 1st of the 12th is shakkō and the moon-viewing day on the 15th of the 8th is always butsumetsu.

This system did not become popular in Japan until the end of the Edo period.

National Holidays

Koinobori, flags decorated like koi, are popular decorations around Children's Day. Koinobori4797.jpg
Koinobori, flags decorated like koi, are popular decorations around Children's Day.

After World War II, the names of Japanese national holidays were completely changed because of the secular state principle (Article 20, The Constitution of Japan). Although many of them actually originated from Shinto, Buddhism and important events relating to the Japanese imperial family, it is not easy to understand the original meanings from the superficial and vague official names.

Notes: Single days between two national holidays are taken as a bank holiday. This applies to May 4, which is a holiday each year. When a national holiday falls on a Sunday the next day that is not a holiday (usually a Monday) is taken as a holiday.

Japanese national holidays
DateEnglish nameOfficial name Romanization
January 1 New Year's Day 元日Ganjitsu
Second Monday of January Coming of Age Day 成人の日Seijin no hi
February 11 National Foundation Day 建国記念の日Kenkoku kinen no hi
February 23 The Emperor's Birthday 天皇誕生日Tennō tanjōbi
March 20 or 21 Vernal Equinox Day 春分の日Shunbun no hi
April 29 Shōwa Day*昭和の日Shōwa no hi
May 3 Constitution Memorial Day*憲法記念日Kenpō kinenbi
May 4 Greenery Day*みどり(緑)の日Midori no hi
May 5 Children's Day*子供の日Kodomo no hi
Third Monday of July Marine Day 海の日Umi no hi
August 11 Mountain Day 山の日Yama no hi
Third Monday of September Respect for the Aged Day 敬老の日Keirō no hi
September 22 or 23 Autumnal Equinox Day 秋分の日Shūbun no hi
Second Monday of October Health and Sports Day 体育の日Taiiku no hi
November 3 Culture Day 文化の日Bunka no hi
November 23 Labour Thanksgiving Day 勤労感謝の日Kinrō kansha no hi
Traditional date on which according to legend Emperor Jimmu founded Japan in 660 BC.
* Part of Golden Week.

Timeline of Creation of and Changes to National Holidays

  • 1948: The following national holidays were introduced in the Public Holiday Law (国民の祝日に関する法律, Kokumin no Shukujitsu ni Kansuru Hōritsu, lit. "An Act on public holidays"; Act No. 178 of 1948): New Year's Day, Coming-of-Age Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Children's Day, Autumnal Equinox Day, Culture Day, and Labor Thanksgiving Day. [36]
  • 1966: A supplementary provision to create Health and Sports Day was introduced in memory of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. [36] Vernal Equinox Day, National Foundation Day and Respect for the Aged Day were also introduced. [36]
  • 1985: Reform to the national holiday law made days like May 4, sandwiched between two other national holidays, a generic national holiday (国民の休日, kokumin no kyūjitsu). [36]
  • 1989: After the Shōwa Emperor died on January 7, his birthday, April 29, was renamed Greenery Day and The Emperor's Birthday (observed as a national holiday since 1868) moved to December 23 for the succeeding Akihito.
  • 1995: Reform to the national holiday law added Marine Day, to be celebrated July 20. [36]
  • 2000, 2003: Happy Monday System (ハッピーマンデー制度, Happī Mandē Seido) moved several holidays to Monday. Starting with 2000: Coming-of-Age Day (formerly January 15, now the second Monday in January) and Health and Sports Day (formerly October 10, now the second Monday in October). [37] Starting with 2003: Marine Day (formerly July 20, now the third Monday in July) and Respect for the Aged Day (formerly September 15, now the third Monday in September). [38]
  • 2005, 2007: April 29 was renamed Shōwa Day, and May 4, previously a generic national holiday (国民の休日, kokumin no kyūjitsu), became the new Greenery Day. [39]
  • 2014: Mountain Day was established as a new holiday, to be observed starting 2016 [40] [41] [36]
  • 2019: Akihito's birthday is December 23; however, he abdicated April 30, 2019, in favor of his son Naruhito, which moved the "Emperor's Birthday" holiday to February 23. Because the transition happened before Akihito's birthday but after Naruhito's, the "Emperor's Birthday" holiday was not celebrated that year. [42]
  • 2020: The speech given by Naruhito during the New Year was the first given since 2017, when Akihito halted the practice to reduce his workload. [43] [44]
  • 2021, 2022: Because of the COVID-19 crisis, Naruhito's New Year's greetings were delivered via a televised speech instead of in-person. [45] [46] [43] [47] [48]
  • 2023: The imperial family's New Year's greetings were held publicly for the first time in three years. [49] The Emperor's Birthday on February 23 will also be the first time public celebrations will be held for the occasion since Naruhito's ascension in 2019. [50] The latter events in 2020, 2021 and 2022 had all been cancelled due to concerns over COVID-19. [51] [46] [52]

Seasonal Festivals

The following are known as the five seasonal festivals (節句sekku, also 五節句 gosekku ). The sekku were made official holidays during Edo period on Chinese lunisolar calendar. The dates of these festivals are confused nowadays; some on the Gregorian calendar, others on "Tsuki-okure".

  1. 7th day of the 1st month: 人日 (Jinjitsu), 七草の節句 ( Nanakusa no sekku ) held on 7 January
  2. 3rd day of the 3rd month: 上巳 (Jōshi), 桃の節句 (Momo no sekku) held on 3 March in many areas, but in some area on 3 April
  3. 5th day of the 5th month: Tango (端午): mostly held on 5 May
  4. 7th day of the 7th month: 七夕 (Shichiseki, Tanabata ), 星祭り ( Hoshi matsuri ) held on 7 July in many areas, but in northern Japan held on 7 August (e.g. in Sendai)
  5. 9th day of the 9th month: 重陽 (Chōyō), 菊の節句 ( Kiku no sekku ) almost out of vogue today

Not sekku:

Customary issues in modern Japan

Gregorian months and the "One-Month Delay"

In contrast to other East Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, Korea and Mongolia, Japan has almost completely forgotten the Chinese calendar. Since 1876, January has been officially regarded as the "first month" even when setting the date of Japanese traditional folklore events (other months are the same: February as the second month, March as the third, and so on). But this system often brings a strong seasonal sense of gap since the event is 3 to 7 weeks earlier than in the traditional calendar. Modern Japanese culture has invented a kind of "compromised" way of setting dates for festivals called Tsuki-okure ("One-Month Delay") or Chūreki ("The Eclectic Calendar"). The festival is celebrated just one solar calendar month later than the date on the Gregorian calendar. For example, the Buddhist festival of Obon was the 15th day of the 7th month. In many places the religious services are held on 15 July. However, in some areas, the rites are normally held on 15 August, which is more seasonally close to the old calendar. (The general term "Obon holiday" always refers to the middle of August.) Although this is just de facto and customary, it is broadly used when setting the dates of many folklore events and religious festivals. But Japanese New Year is the great exception. The date of Japanese New Year is always 1 January.

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Emperor Abdication Law</span>

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