Translated by Sandy Lau
Japanese Public Holidays And Long Weekends In 2019 And 2020
Japan has sixteen national holidays in a year. Learn about Japan's public holidays and their significance in order to avoid crowded places during your trip, and also to make use of days with free entry to museums and other free events.
Written by MATCHA
Avoid the Crowds During Japan's Public Holidays
Japan has sixteen public holidays each year. Some holidays combine with the weekends, creating consecutive holidays. On these days, most sightseeing areas and central shopping centers will be filled with people. If you’d like to avoid the crowds and enjoy sightseeing comfortably, we suggest avoiding these holidays.
This article introduces information on national and consecutive holidays for 2019 and 2020. Detailed introductions are also included for each holiday. Please feel free to use this article to help with traveling in Japan.
*This article also introduces holidays and periods that are expected to be crowded outside of public holidays.
*Public holidays are subject to change in accordance to the policies of the Japanese government.
2019 Public and Consecutive Holidays
|Public Holiday||2019||Consecutive Holiday|
|Vernal Equinox Day||March 21||None|
Showa Day (GW)
GW is Golden Week
|April 29||April 27 – May 6|
|Imperial Accession Day (GW)||May 1||April 27 – May 6
*According to Japanese law, days before and after public holidays must also be holidays
|Constitution Memorial Day (GW)||May 3||April 27 – May 6|
|Greenery Day (GW)||May 4||April 27 – May 6|
|Children’s Day (GW)||May 5||April 27 – May 6|
|Marine Day||July 15||July 13 – 15|
|Mountain Day||August 11||August 10 – 12|
|Obon||Around August 13 – 16||This is not a public holiday, but many people take time off during this time|
|Respect for the Aged Day||September 16||September 14 – 16|
|Autumn Equinox Day||September 23||September 21 – 23|
|Health and Sports Day||October 14||October 12 – 14|
|Enthronement Ceremony Day||October 22||None|
|Culture Day||November 3||November 2 – 4|
|Labor Thanksgiving Day||November 23||None|
2020 Public and Consecutive Holidays
|Public Holiday||2020||Consecutive Holiday|
|New Year’s Day||January||None (many people take time off around December 28 – January 4)|
|Coming of Age Day||January 13||January 11 – 13|
|National Foundation Day||February 11||None|
|Emperor’s Birthday||February 23 *Feb. 24 is a substitute holiday||February 22 – 24|
|Vernal Equinox Day||March 20||March 20 – 22|
Showa Day (GW)
GW is Golden Week
|April 29||April 29 – May 6
*April 30 – May 1 are not holidays, but many people take time off during this period
|Constitution Memorial Day (GW)||May 3||April 29 – May 6|
|Greenery Day (GW)||May 4||April 29 – May 6|
|Children’s Day (GW)||May 5||April 29 – May 6|
|Holiday||May 6||April 29 – May 6
*According to Japanese law, the days before and after public holidays must also be holidays
|Marine Day||July 23||July 23 – 26
*The holiday will be moved to July 23 in 2020 to accompany the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games
|Sports Day*||July 24||July 24 – 26
*The holiday will be moved to July 24 in 2020 to accompany the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games
|Mountain Day||August 10||August 8 – 10
*The holiday will be moved to August 10 in 2020 to accompany the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games
|Obon||Around August 13 – 16||This is not a public holiday, but many people take time off during this time|
|Respect for the Aged Day||September 21||September 19 – 22nd|
|Autumn Equinox Day||September 22||September 19 – 22|
|Culture Day||November 3||None|
|Labor Thanksgiving Day||November 23||November 21 – 23|
*Health and Sports Day will be renamed Sports Day starting in 2020.
Things You Should Know
1) Some events and campaigns are only held during public holidays. For details, please read Free Zoos, Museums And Parks In The City! Free Entry Day Calendar.
2) If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes a subsitute public holiday. These substitute holidays tend to be busy, so please refer to the table above for dates to avoid crowds.
Table of Contents
1. New Year’s Day January 1
2. Coming of Age Day The second Monday of January
3. National Foundation Day February 11
4. The Emperor’s Birthday February 23
5. Vernal Equinox Day Around March 20, 21
6. Showa Day April 29
7. Constitution Memorial Day May 3
8. Greenery Day May 4
9. Children’s Day May 5
10. Marine Day The third Monday of July
11. Mountain Day August 11
12. Obon Around August 13 – 16
13. Respect for the Aged Day The third Monday of September
14. Autumn Equinox Day Around September 22, 23
15. Tokyo Citizen’s Day October 1
16. Sports Day The second Monday of October
17. Enthronement Ceremony Day October 22
18. Culture Day November 3
19. Labor Thanksgiving Day November 23
20. New Year’s Holiday Around December 28 – January 4
1. New Year’s Day – January 1
Japan does not celebrate the Lunar New Year but instead celebrates the new year on January 1 with grand festivities. Private businesses in shopping districts and other such areas will often close their shops from around January 1 to 3, so be sure to keep this fact in mind. Famous shrines and temples will also have lines stretching their entrances to the main shrine for several hours due to people visiting for Hatsumode, or their first visit of the year.
2. Coming of Age Day – The Second Monday of January
This is a day to congratulate those that have come of age that year and is held on the second Monday of January.
A coming of age ceremony is held in every municipality in Japan on this day. In Urayasu, Chiba, where Tokyo Disneyland is located, the coming of age ceremony is held inside the park. Be aware of this fact as the park will be even more crowded than usual.
3. National Foundation Day – February 11
This holiday is annually held on February 11 to celebrate the founding of Japan. On this day, Meiji Shrine, located on the right side of Harajuku Station, holds a parade in celebration. Parade spectators will gather along the parade’s route, so this area is expected to be crowded.
This was the day Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan, ascended to the throne as recorded in Japanese mythology.
4. The Emperor’s Birthday – February 23
This holiday is the date of the present Emperor’s birthday. The date was changed from December 23 to February 23 with the new Emperor’s accession to the throne in 2019.
On this day, many people gather at the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda, Tokyo, to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday and offer their congratulatory wishes. Traffic restrictions may be put into place in the surrounding area, so caution is necessary even if you will not be visiting the Palace.
5. Vernal Equinox Day – Around March 20, 21
Due to Japan’s location in the northern hemisphere, days become longer as summer approaches while nights become long when winter approaches. Vernal Equinox Day marks the change between seasons when there are around equal lengths of sunlight and darkness. The exact date is undetermined as it is influenced by the movement of the sun and earth, resulting in slightly varying dates each year.
Although not sightseeing-related, Japanese people have a custom of visiting their ancestral graves and eating a type of wagashi called botamochi (a red bean paste-covered rice cake) during this holiday. Botamochi is sold in supermarkets and shopping districts.
During this season, events are hosted at famous plum blossom spots throughout the country.
6. Showa Day – April 29
Showa is the name of an era in Japan. Showa Day was established as a day to reflect back on that time period. On this day, Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa, Tokyo is opened to the public for free. Please keep this in mind as the park will be crowded.
In 2019, April 30 and May 2, the days before and after May 1, when the new Emperor will ascend to the throne, are also holidays. Due to that fact, Golden Week, the spring tourist season Showa Day is included in, will become a ten-day consecutive holiday beginning on April 27.
Sightseeing areas in Japan are anticipated to be heavily crowded during this time, so please take extra care if you’ll be traveling to Japan during Golden Week.
This holiday was the date of the birthday of Emperor Showa, the 124th Emperor of Japan, and was originally celebrated as the Emperor’s Birthday. After his passing, the day was celebrated as Greenery Day until 2006.
7. Constitution Memorial Day – May 3
This is one of the holidays that makes up Golden Week. As a result, various events are held throughout the country on this date. All types of sightseeing areas and public transportation systems, such as the shinkansen (bullet train) and highways, will be extremely crowded at this time.
If there are no events being held that you wish to attend, then it is best to avoid this period.
This holiday celebrates the enactment of the Constitution of Japan on May 3, 1947.
8. Greenery Day – May 4
This holiday was established with the purpose of “nurturing a richness of spirit that is intimate and grateful to the blessings of nature” and is one of the holidays that make up Golden Week much like Constitution Memorial Day or Children’s Day. As the purpose of the holiday is to appreciate nature, some zoos and city gardens will be open to the public for free.
*A list of facilities in Tokyo that have free entry on Greenery Day can be found here (Japanese).
You can read more information on the facilities that have free entry on Greenery Day below.
9. Children’s Day – May 5
Children's Day is a holiday when people honor the individuality of children, wish for their happiness, and express gratitude towards mothers. It is also a part of Golden Week.
On this day, facilities for children such as city zoos will have free or discounted entry fees. If you’ll be traveling with children, we suggest confirming this information beforehand.
Cultural practices celebrating and wishing for the growth of children, such as the hanging of carp banners, have been a long-held tradition in Japan. Other traditions include the practice of eating wagashi like kashiwa mochi (oak leaf-wrapped rice cakes) or chimaki (bamboo leaf-wrapped cakes) on this day.
This holiday was derived from a Boy’s Day celebration, one of five seasonal festivals that signify the change of the seasons. From around the twelfth century onwards, it became a seasonal festival celebrating the growth of children in general.
10. Marine Day – The Third Monday of July
This holiday takes place every third Monday of July and is when we show gratitude for the blessings of the ocean while praying for the prosperity of the maritime nation of Japan. However, it will take place on July 23 in 2020 when the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are to be held.
Just as its name describes, events centered around the ocean are held throughout the country. Particularly, the Maritime Self Defense Force bases across Japan (Yokosuka, Sasebo, Kure, Maizuru, Ominato, and other locations) will be open to the general public on this day (does not include all bases nor does it occur every year).
As Nara is a landlocked prefecture in Japan, the “Nara Mountain and River Day” takes place on Marine Day (it also on the third Monday of July).
The holiday is associated with the date Emperor Meiji returned to Yokohama Port by steamship during his cruise around Tohoku in 1876.
11. Mountain Day – August 11
Established in 2014, this is a new holiday that was first celebrated in 2016. The holiday typically takes place on August 11 but will instead take place on August 10 in 2020 when the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are held.
The holiday was created to provide people with an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the mountains and appreciate their important role in Japan and the ecosystem here. In 2016, events were held in Kamikochi, Nagano, and Mt. Takao in Tokyo. However, some events are no longer being held or new events are still irregular as the holiday is still very new.
12. Obon – Around August 13 – 16
Although it is not a public holiday, many Japanese people take vacation time to return to their hometowns during this period. Much like Golden Week or the New Year’s holiday, public transportation and highways will be highly congested over these series of days.
The date for Obon is not clearly defined, and will instead vary depending on the region. Many people will be taking holidays around August 15 and include the weekends, too, so be sure to double check your travel dates with a calendar.
13. Respect for the Aged Day – The Third Monday of September
The third Monday of September every year is Respect for the Aged Day. As it is a day to give respect and to celebrate the longevity of the elderly, seniors are given free entry to national parks and zoos. Many facilities consider visitors over 60 or 65 years of age to be seniors.
14. Autumn Equinox Day – Around September 22, 23
Autumn Equinox Day is the opposite of Vernal Equinox Day and, similarly, Japanese people will visit their family graves during this time. Many holidays overlap with each other in September, resulting in the name "Silver Week," similar to May’s Golden Week.
15. Tokyo Citizen’s Day – October 1
Although it is not a public holiday, we are introducing this holiday as it celebrates the Tokyo area, where many international travelers visit. On this day, several facilities in the city will have free entry, which means you can expect it to be crowded.
16. Sports Day – The Second Monday of October
This holiday is celebrated to foster a healthy mind and body by encouraging citizens to try sports. For this day, sports-related events are held throughout the country at gymnasiums and sports grounds.
The holiday normally takes place on the second Monday of October but will take place on July 24 in 2020 when the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are to be held.
The holiday commemorates the day of the opening ceremonies of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics (October 10) and was originally celebrated on that same day. In 2020, the holiday was renamed from “Health and Sports Day” to “Sports Day."
17. Enthronement Ceremony Day – October 22
October 22 is a holiday in 2019 to commemorate the hosting of the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi, a ceremony that will declare the accession to the throne of the new Emperor to the world.
18. Culture Day – November 3
Culture Day is held annually on November 3 to promote culture while respecting freedom and peace. Art festivals sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs are held around this time. Admission will be free at some museums and galleries, and special events will also be held.
A unique event is the Culture Festival held annually on this day at the Fuchu Prison in Tokyo. It may seem slightly frightening to go to a festival at a prison, but the event is very safe and also attended by the locals. At the festival, you can eat meals made at the prison and purchase products made by the inmates.
The holiday is associated with the official proclamation of the Constitution of Japan on November 3, 1946. This constitution is the same constitution memorialized on Constitution Memorial Day on May 3.
19. Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23
This is a holiday when labor and production are esteemed and celebrated. During this period, famous autumn leaves spots are very crowded.
The holiday is related to the Harvest Festival when the Emperor would perform a ceremonial offering of newly-harvested rice to celebrate the abundant harvest. This holiday is uniquely Japanese, as a country that has eaten rice as a staple food since ancient times.
20. New Year’s Holiday – Around December 28 – January 4
Although it is not a public holiday, the New Year’s holiday period from December 28 to January 4 often brings crowds to shopping centers and public transportation across Japan.
Reservations for public transportation are difficult to make due to the flux of people returning home for the new year. Shopping districts and centers are also packed with crowds of people cleaning and making preparations for the new year.
Know the Holidays and Travel Smart
Many people are probably surprised at the number of holidays in Japan.
If you’ll be sightseeing in Japan, check whether or not your vacation will overlap with a holiday. If it does fall on a holiday, be sure to consider visiting a destination that will be relatively uncrowded.
By making preparations beforehand, you can have smooth and pleasant travel around Japan.