Translated by Lester Somera
Why Are The ATMs Closed?! Facts About Japan's Long Holidays
Written by MATCHA
This article has essential information for travelers to Japan about national holiday schedules, and things to keep in mind during national holidays.
Closed ATMs in Japan?
In countries all over the world, a string of long consecutive holidays changes a lot of day-to-day situations, and Japan is no different. We would like to explain the schedule of consecutive holidays in Japan, and draw your attention to a few things you should know about these holidays.
Japan's Long Holidays
The New Year
New Year's Day, January 1st (元旦 gantan) is the most important national holiday to Japanese people. January 1st through 3rd are collectively called san-ga-nichi. During this long holiday, which starts from around December 30th and runs through san-ga-nichi, people are excited to celebrate the start of the New Year (お正月 oshōgatsu).
Golden Week (GW)
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Golden Week is a cluster of national holidays that spans the length of time from around April 29th to around June 5th. The exact dates of the national holidays will vary according to the annual calendar, but when taking Saturday and Sunday into account, this is the longest successive holiday in Japan. Many workers use vacation days on the intervening weekdays as well, and use this time to unwind and go on trips.
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During the Obon holiday, people return to their homes to pray to the spirits of their ancestors and venerate the dead. Typically it lasts from August 13th to August 16th. This holiday happens during summer vacation for students (mid-July through late August) and many adults get this long holiday off, so you can expect crowds no matter where you go.
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Silver Week does not happen every year. Respect For The Aged Day (which occurs on the third Monday in September) and Fall Equinox Day (which can happen on September 21st, 22nd or 23rd) must line up correctly. If Fall Equinox Day happens to land on the Wednesday following Respect For The Aged Day, then the intervening Tuesday also becomes a national holiday. As a result, counting Saturday and Sunday, it becomes a five-day-long holiday.
Some Pointers on Long Holidays
Sightseeing Spots, Transportation and Hotels
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You could call the movements of crowds during a long holiday "Japanese mass migration" and not be far off the mark. Sightseeing spots will be teeming with people. Holidays affect public transportation in various ways: train timetables are different, with fewer trains in service and last trains running earlier than normal. Keep this in mind when traveling.
In addition, since trains, planes and hotels are packed at these times, fares and prices go up accordingly. If your trip dates coincide with a Japanese long holiday, it would be best to make reservations as early as possible.
ATM Operating Hours
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While financial institutions are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, you can generally still withdraw money from ATMs at these times. However, some ATMs will be out of service. In addition, handling charges may increase, compared to normal costs. Remember that you may not be able to use ATMs at certain times during your trip, so try to make sure to have extra money on-hand.
Restaurants and Businesses
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In other countries, long consecutive holidays tend to mean closed businesses and restaurants; holidays like Easter, Christmas, Chinese New Year and National Day, and Thailand's Songkran Festival, to name a few. In Japan, however, these times are thought of as the best time to turn a profit. Most restaurants and businesses remain open during long holidays. However, it becomes more difficult to make restaurant reservations, and some privately-owned businesses do take time off. Make sure to check that the places you want to go will remain open beforehand.
Having said that, there are two exceptions: some places may close early on New Year's Eve and remain closed on New Year's Day, so be careful when planning a trip around the end of the year.
That concludes our piece about Japanese long holidays. Don't forget that in Japan, people tend to think of long holidays as being less about spending time at home with family, and more about going out shopping and enjoying their leisure time.