From January through December, there are many ways to participate in Japan’s special occasions. So if you’re taking Japanese lessons, make sure you get in on the fun! Mark your calendar, here are 12 Japanese holidays you should remember.
Ganjitsu – New Year’s Day
People around the world celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. In Japan, many businesses remain closed until the 3rd, and there are all types of parties and traditions.
Japanese people view each year as a fresh start—so you should leave your worries and troubles behind, and start the new year with joy, happiness, and a new perspective.
Kenkoku Kinen no Hi – National Foundation Day
National Foundation Day is a historical holiday on the 11th of February. The holiday commemorates the formation of the nation. The National Flag is raised and the prime minister gives a speech; Japanese people show their national pride by waving their flags.
Hina Matsuri – Girl’s Festival
Parents wish their daughters success and happiness. Dolls and peach blossoms are displayed in many houses throughout Japan.
Shunbun No Hi – Spring / Vernal Equinox
March 20th / 21st
This national holiday welcomes the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s also a time to visit graves and honor your ancestors. It’s a favored holiday for farmers, who pray for an abundant harvest.
Showa No Hi – Showa Day
Part of Golden Week, Showa Day takes place on April 29th. Once known as the Emperor’s Birthday, then Greenery Day (which is now May 4th), it commemorates the Showa Era (1926 – 1989).
April 29th – May 8th
Golden week combines four national holidays in Japan. May 3rd is Kenpo kinenbi (Constitution Day), and commemorates the new constitution which was put in place in 1947. May 4th is Midori no hi (Greenery Day), which celebrates nature and the environment. Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) is the last Golden Week holiday, and families pray for their son’s health and future success.
June 20th – 21st
It’s not an official national holiday, but chances are you can find a celebration to attend. The summer solstice recognizes the longest day of the year—a tradition honored in Japan and around the world.
Umi no Hi (Marine Day / Ocean Day)
Third Monday in July
Ocean Day is a holiday to give thanks for the ocean’s bounty and its importance to Japan as an Island nation.
Mountain Day will become an official holiday on August 11th, 2016. It will not only give people a day off from work, but also will provide an opportunity to appreciate and study the benefits of mountains.
Keiro no Hi (Respect-for-the-Aged Day)
Third Monday in September
This holiday is all about celebrating and showing respect for elderly people in the community, and expressing gratitude for their contributions.
Taiku no Hi (Health and Sports Day)
Second Monday in October
Health and Sports Day is a national holiday that commemorates the opening of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. The holiday also encourages a healthy and active lifestyle.
Kinrō Kansha no Hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day)
As the name implies, Japan’s Thanksgiving celebrates workers, and honors the labor and production in the country.
Tennō Tanjōbi (The Emperor’s Birthday)
The emperor’s birthday is always a national holiday in Japan. Akihito, the current Japanese emperor, was born on December 23rd, so the holiday coincides with his birthday.
As you take Japanese lessons, learn as much as you can about these special Japanese holidays. Learning about holidays and traditions makes learning Japanese that much more fun!
Photo by David Chau