Public holidays in Japan (国民の祝日, kokumin no shukujitsu) were established by 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) of 1948 (as amended). A provision of the law establishes that when a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the next working day shall become a public holiday, known as furikae kyūjitsu (振替休日, "compensatory public holiday", literally "substitute holiday"). Additionally, any day that falls between two other national holidays shall also become a holiday, known as kokumin no kyūjitsu (国民の休日, literally "citizens' holiday"). May 4, sandwiched between Constitution Memorial Day on May 3 and Children's Day on May 5, was an annual example of such a holiday until it was replaced by Greenery Day in 2007.
Prior to Japan's adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1873, the dates of holidays were based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. Thus, New Year's Day, for example, was celebrated at the beginning of spring, as it is in modern China, Korea, and Vietnam. Japan has 16 national, government-recognized holidays.
|New Year's Day (元日, Ganjitsu)||January 1||This national holiday was established in 1948, as a day to celebrate the new year. New Year's Day marks the beginning of Japan's most important holiday season, the New Year season (正月, Shōgatsu), which generally refers to the first one, three or seven days of the year. Although not prescribed by law, many workplaces are closed from December 29 to January 3. Prior to 1948, New Year's Day was a national holiday on which the imperial worship ceremony known as Shihō-hai (四方拝) took place.|
|Coming of Age Day (成人の日, Seijin no Hi)||Second Monday of January||This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day to congratulate and encourage people who have reached the age of maturity (20) during the year. Cities and towns throughout the nation hold ceremonies for these people. Originally held on January 15, in 2000 it was changed to the second Monday of January in accordance with the Happy Monday System.|
|National Foundation Day (建国記念の日, Kenkoku Kinen no Hi)||February 11||This national holiday was established in 1966 (and first held in 1967) as a day to reflect on the establishment of the nation and to nurture a love for the country. From 1872 to 1948, February 11 was known as Kigen-setsu (紀元節), a holiday commemorating the day on which—according to the Nihon Shoki —Emperor Jimmu is said to have acceded the throne in 660 BCE.|
|The Emperor's Birthday (天皇誕生日, Tennō Tanjōbi)||February 23||The birthday of the reigning emperor has been a national holiday since 1868. Originally known as Tenchō-setsu (天長節), it was renamed Tennō tanjōbi (天皇誕生日) in 1948. It is currently celebrated on February 23; Emperor Naruhito was born on this day in 1960. Prior to the abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30, 2019, this holiday was celebrated on December 23, and it was not celebrated in 2019.|
|Vernal Equinox Day (春分の日, Shunbun no Hi)||Around March 20||This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day for the admiration of nature and the love of living things. Prior to 1948, the vernal equinox was an imperial ancestor worship festival called Shunki kōrei-sai (春季皇霊祭).|
|Shōwa Day (昭和の日, Shōwa no Hi)||April 29||This national holiday was established in 2007 as a day to reflect on the events of the Shōwa period. As the birthday of Hirohito, officially known as Emperor Shōwa, April 29 was originally celebrated as a holiday during his lifetime. Hirohito was born on this day in 1901. (See "The Emperor's Birthday" above.) After the death of Hirohito in 1989, the date continued to be a holiday under the new name "Greenery Day". (See also below.) In 2007, Greenery Day was moved to May 4, and April 29 took the name "Shōwa Day" in honor of the late Emperor. Shōwa Day marks the start of the Golden Week holiday period.|
|Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日, Kenpō Kinenbi)||May 3||This national holiday was established in 1948, to commemorate the day on which Japan's postwar constitution took effect. Constitution Memorial Day falls during Golden Week.|
|Greenery Day (みどりの日, Midori no Hi)||May 4||This national holiday is celebrated as a day to commune with nature and be grateful for its blessings. Originally established in 1989 and held annually on April 29 (the late Shōwa Emperor's birthday), in 2007 Greenery Day was moved to May 4, and April 29 was renamed "Shōwa Day" (see above.) Greenery Day falls during Golden Week. (From 1985 to 2006, May 4 was a kokumin no kyūjitsu holiday.)|
|Children's Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no Hi)||May 5||This national holiday was established in 1948, as a day on which to esteem the personalities of children and plan for their happiness. It is on this day that the Japanese equivalent of the Dragon Boat Festival (端午の節句, Tango no Sekku) is held. On this day, and for some time before it, families who have a boy in their home may fly koinobori and decorate their homes with armor or samurai dolls. Children's Day marks the end of Golden Week.|
|Marine Day (海の日, Umi no Hi)||Third Monday of July||This national holiday was established in 1995 (first held in 1996) as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and hoping for the prosperity of Japan. Originally held on July 20, the holiday was changed to be celebrated on the third Monday of July in accordance with the Happy Monday System starting in 2003.|
|Mountain Day (山の日, Yama no Hi)||August 11||This national holiday was established in 2014 (and first held in 2016), as a day on which to appreciate Japan's mountains. It is intended to coincide with the vacation time usually given during the Bon Festival held in mid-August.|
|Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日, Keirō no Hi)||Third Monday of September||This national holiday was established in 1966 as a day to respect the elderly and celebrate a long life. Originally held on September 15, it originated as a renaming of Old Folks' Day (老人の日, Rōjin no hi). In 2003, it was changed to the third Monday of September in accordance with the Happy Monday System.|
|Autumnal Equinox Day (秋分の日, Shūbun no Hi)||Around September 23||This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day on which to honor one's ancestors and remember the dead. Prior to 1948, the autumnal equinox was an imperial ancestor worship festival called Shūki kōrei-sai (秋季皇霊祭).|
|Health and Sports Day (体育の日, Taiiku no Hi)||Second Monday of October||This national holiday was established in 1966 as a day on which to enjoy sports and cultivate a healthy mind and body. Originally held on October 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, in 2000 it was changed to the second Monday of October in accordance with the Happy Monday System.|
|Culture Day (文化の日, Bunka no Hi)||November 3||This national holiday was established in 1948. It commemorates the November 3, 1946 announcement of the Constitution. It is recognized as a day to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture. (Although prior to the establishment of this holiday in 1948, November 3 was also a national holiday called Meiji-Setsu (明治節) commemorating the birthday of Emperor Meiji, the two holidays are ostensibly unrelated.)|
|Labour Thanksgiving Day (勤労感謝の日, Kinrō Kansha no Hi)||November 23||This national holiday was established in 1948 as an occasion for praising labor, celebrating production and giving one other thanks. Prior to the establishment of this holiday, November 23 was celebrated as an imperial harvest festival called Niiname-sai (新嘗祭).|
The national holidays in 2017–2023 are as follows.
|New Year's Day (Japanese New Year)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Coming of Age Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|National Foundation Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|The Emperor's Birthday||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Vernal Equinox Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
| Golden Week |
(Shōwa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day)
|SO P Day and Sports Day||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Respect for the Aged Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Autumnal Equinox Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Health and Sports Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Labor Thanksgiving Day||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
In addition to the annual holidays listed above, certain events of celebration or mourning related to the imperial family are also treated as national holidays in the year in which they occur.
There have been six instances of such holidays since the introduction of the Public Holiday Law:
Beginning in 2000, Japan implemented the Happy Monday System, which moved a number of national holidays to Monday in order to obtain a long weekend.
In 2006, the country added Shōwa Day, a new national holiday, in place of Greenery Day on April 29, and to move Greenery Day to May 4. These changes took effect in 2007.
In 2014, the House of Councillors decided to add Mountain Day (山の日, Yama no Hi) to the Japanese calendar on August 11, after lobbying by the Japanese Alpine Club. It is intended to coincide with the Bon Festival vacation time, giving Japanese people an opportunity to appreciate Japan's mountains.
With the Japanese imperial transition, the Emperor's Birthday was moved from December 23 to February 23 (the respective birthdays of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Emperor Naruhito). Due to Akihito's 2019 birthday being after his abdication but Naruhito's before his accession, this holiday was not celebrated in 2019.
As special arrangement for the 2020 Summer Olympics, the 2020 dates for Marine Day, Sports Day, and Mountain Day were moved to July 23, July 24, and August 10 respectively. With the Olympics and Paralympics postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government left this change in place for 2020 and passed an amendment to the Olympic and Paralympic Special Measures Act to make a corresponding change to the holidays in 2021, moving them to July 22, July 23, and August 9 respectively.
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. The written form starts with the year, then the month and finally the day. For example February 16, 2003 can be written 2003年2月16日. 年 reads nen and means "year", 月 reads gatsu and means "month" and finally 日 reads nichi and means "day".
The Japanese era name, also known as gengō (元号), is the first of the two elements that identify years in the Japanese era calendar scheme. The second element is a number which indicates the year number within the era, followed by the literal "nen (年)" meaning "year".
The Heisei era is the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of Emperor Akihito from 8 January 1989 until his abdication on 30 April 2019. The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the day after the death of the Emperor Hirohito, when his son, Akihito, acceded to the throne as the 125th Emperor. In accordance with Japanese customs, Hirohito was posthumously renamed "Emperor Shōwa" on 31 January 1989. Heisei translates to "peace everywhere".
Naruhito is the emperor of Japan. He acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on 1 May 2019, beginning the Reiwa era, following the abdication of his father, Akihito. He is the 126th monarch according to Japan's traditional order of succession.
Golden Week or Ōgon Shūkan (黄金週間) is a week from the 29th of April to early May containing a number of Japanese holidays. It is also known as Ōgata Renkyū.
The present observation of Greenery Day as a national holiday in Japan stems from the celebration of the birthday of the Emperor Shōwa on April 29 every year during the Shōwa era (1926-1989). In 1989, following the ascension of the Emperor Akihito to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the name of the holiday was changed from "Birthday of the Emperor" to "Greenery Day". Officially, as its name suggests, it is a day to commune with nature and to be thankful for blessings. The day was renamed to "Greenery Day" to acknowledge the controversial wartime emperor's love for plants without directly mentioning his name. However, in practice it is seen as just another day that expands the Japanese Golden Week vacation.
The Emperor's Birthday is an annual national holiday in the Japanese calendar celebrating the birthday of the reigning Emperor, which is currently 23 February as Emperor Naruhito was born on that day in 1960, enforced by a specific law, "The Law for Special Exception of the Imperial House Law concerning Abdication, etc. of Emperor" (天皇の退位等に関する皇室典範特例法) of 2017.
The Three Sacred Treasures are the Imperial Regalia of Japan and consist of the sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi (草薙劍), the mirror Yata no Kagami (八咫鏡), and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉). They represent the three primary virtues: valor, wisdom, and benevolence.
Shōwa Day is a Japanese annual holiday held on April 29. It honors the birthday of Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito), the reigning emperor from 1926 to 1989. Shō (昭) means “shining” or “bright”, and wa (和) means “peace”, signifying the "enlightened peace" that citizens receive. According to the now defunct Democratic Party of Japan, the purpose of the holiday is to encourage public reflection on the turbulent 63 years of Hirohito's reign.
Marine Day, also known as "Ocean Day" or "Sea Day", is a Japanese national holiday usually celebrated on the third Monday in July. The purpose of the holiday is to give thanks to the ocean's bounty and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation.
Labor Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday in Japan celebrated on November 23 of each year, unless that day falls on a Sunday, in which case the holiday is moved to Monday. The law establishing the holiday cites it as an occasion to respect labor, to celebrate production, and citizens give each other thanks.
National Foundation Day is an annual national holiday in Japan on February 11, celebrating the foundation of Japan, enforced by a specific Cabinet Order set in 1966. February 11 is the accession date of the first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, converted into Gregorian calendar of 660 BC which is legendary written in Kojiki and chapter 3 of Nihon Shoki.
Sports Day, formerly Health and Sports Day, is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle.
The Happy Monday System is a set of modifications to Japanese law in 1998 and 2001 to move a number of public holidays in Japan to Mondays, creating three-day weekends for those with five-day work weeks. It is the Japanese equivalent of the 1969 Uniform Monday Holiday Act in the United States.
Reigning Emperor or Majesty, according to protocol, is the honorific title used in Japan to refer to the current Emperor of Japan instead of using their personal name, as is done in the West. The only context where the personal name is used is when referring to their time before taking the throne.
Akihito is a member of the Imperial House of Japan who reigned as the 125th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, from 7 January 1989 until 30 April 2019, Heisei era. He succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne upon the death of his father, Emperor Showa (Hirohito). Upon his abdication due to his age and declining health, he became Emperor emeritus. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Naruhito.
The enthronement of the emperor of Japan is an ancient ceremony that marks the accession of a new monarch to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world's oldest continuous hereditary monarchy. Various ancient imperial regalia are given to the new sovereign during the course of the rite.
Silver Week is a new Japanese term applied to a string of consecutive holidays in September. In 2009, the term gained popularity, referring to the unusual occurrence that year of a weekend followed by three Japanese public holidays in September. The holidays were:
After 30 years on the Chrysanthemum Throne, the then 85-years old Emperor Akihito of Japan abdicated on 30 April 2019, being the first Emperor of Japan to do so since 1817. This marked the end of the Heisei era and the inception of the Reiwa era, and saw numerous festivities leading up to the accession of his son and successor, Emperor Naruhito. The Enthronement Ceremony took place on 22 October 2019. Akihito's younger son, Prince Akishino, is his brother's heir presumptive.
Events in the year 2019 in Japan.