Japanese Public Holidays And Long Weekends In 2018 And 2019
  • Japanese Public Holidays And Long Weekends In 2018 And 2019

Japanese Public Holidays And Long Weekends In 2018 And 2019

2018.09.12

Get to know all about Japan's National Holidays! Sightseeing areas and public transportation are especially busy on these days. This article will be useful for those who want to avoid crowds but there are also many interesting events and activities on tho

Written by Lester Somera

Pin reddit

Avoiding the Crowds on National Holidays

Japan has sixteen national holidays a year. They are often combined with Saturdays and Sundays in order to become long weekends. On these days, sightseeing spots and shopping centers might be crowded with people. If you don’t like crowds or you want to leisurely enjoy the attractions, knowing which days to avoid might be helpful. 

In this article, you will find the dates and information about Japan's national holidays and long weekends in 2018 and 2019!  We’ll explain also each holiday in detail. Hopefully this article will be useful when planning your trip to Japan.

*We will also note longer holiday periods where crowds can be expected, which are not technically national holidays.

2018 Public Holidays and Long Weekends

Public Holiday2018Long Weekend
Mountain DayAugust 11thNone
ObonAround August 13th to 16thNot a national holiday but crowds are to be expected
Respect for the Aged DaySeptember 17thSeptember 15th to 17th
Autumn Equinox DaySeptember 23rdSeptember 22nd to 24th
Health and Sports DayOctober 8thOctober 6th and 8th
Culture DayNovember 3rdNone
Labor Thanksgiving DayNovember 23rdNovember 23rd to 25th
Emperor’s BirthdayDecember 23rdDecember 22nd to 24th

2019 National Holidays and Long Weekends

National Holiday2019Long Weekend
New Year’s DayJanuary 1ndNone (but many people take time off around this period)
Coming of Age DayJanuary 14thJanuary 12th to 14th
Foundation DayFebruary 11thFebruary 9th to 11th
Vernal Equinox DayMarch 21stNone
Showa Day (GW)
GW is Golden Week
April 29thApril 27th to 29th
*If May 1st becomes a holiday, there may be a ten-day holiday (April 27th to May 6th)
Emperor’s Birthday? (undecided)May 1stIt is not yet decided if it will be a national holiday 
Constitution Memorial Day (GW)May 3rdMay 6th to 8th
Greenery Day (GW)May 4thMay 3rd to 6th
Children’s Day (GW)May 5thMay 3rd to 6th
Marine DayJuly 15thJuly 13th to 15th
Mountain DayAugust 11thAugust 10th to 12th
ObonAround August 13th to 16thNot a national holiday but crowds are to be expected
Respect for the Aged DaySeptember 16thSeptember 14th to 16th
Autumn Equinox DaySeptember 23rdAround September 21st to 23rd
Health and Sports DayOctober 14thOctober 12th to 14th
Culture DayNovember 3rdNovember 2nd 4th
Labor Thanksgiving DayNovember 23rdNone
Emperor’s BirthdayNone-

Important Points

1) There are events and special promotional campaigns held only on national holidays. For more information, read Free Zoos, Museums And Parks In The City! Free Entry Day Calendar.

2) If a national holiday falls on a Sunday, then the following Monday becomes a substitute holiday. These substitute holidays can also be quite busy, so please double-check the above chart.

Table of Contents

1. New Year’s Day - January 1st
2. Coming of Age Day - Second Monday in January
3. Foundation Day - February 11th
4. Vernal Equinox Day - Around March 20th or 21st
5. Showa Day - April 29th
6. Constitution Memorial Day - May 3rd
7. Greenery Day - May 4th
8. Children’s Day - May 5th
9. Marine Day - Third Monday in July
10. Mountain Day - August 11th
11. Obon - Around August 13th and 16th
12. Respect for the Aged Day - Third Monday in September
13. Autumn Equinox Day - Around September 22nd and 23rd
14. Citizens Day - October 1st
15. Health and Sports Day - Second Monday in October
16. Culture Day - November 3rd
17. Labor Thanksgiving Day - November 23rd
18. Emperor’s Birthday - December 23rd
19. New Year’s Holiday - Around December 28th to January 4th

1. New Year’s Day - January 1st

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

In Japan, instead of celebrating the Lunar New Year, people celebrate the new year on the first day of January. Be aware that many shotengai shopping streets and other individual shops may be closed from January 1st through to the 3rd. Many people will go to famous shrines and temples for their first shrine visit of the new year, so you may have to wait in line for several hours in order to get to the main building.

Origin

The first day of the year under the solar calendar has been celebrated in Japan since 1948.

2. Coming of Age Day - Second Monday in January

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

Celebrated on the second Monday in January, the Coming of Age Day is the day on which young men and women who have reached 20 years of age are considered to be legal adults.

Coming of age celebrations are held in cities and towns all over Japan. Urayasu in Chiba prefecture, home to Tokyo Disneyland is especially busy at this time, as some Coming of Age Day celebrations are held at Disneyland. Visitors should expect the amusement park to be exceptionally crowded at that time.

3. Foundation Day - February 11th

Foundation Day on every February 11th celebrates the day that Japan became a nation. Meiji Jingu Shrine, located close to Harajuku Station, holds a celebratory parade on this day. Many people come to watch and participate in this event, so this area can become very crowded.

Origin

According to the earliest records, this is the date on which the first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, was enthroned.

4. Vernal Equinox Day - Around March 20th to 21st

As Japan is located in the northern hemisphere, the days become longer as the summer draws nearer, and the nights become longer when winter approaches. Vernal Equinox Day is when the length of daytime and nighttime are roughly equal, and the seasons change. The exact date of this event varies slightly from year to year, as it is based on the movement of the sun and the earth.

Although it is not considered sightseeing, most Japanese people celebrate this day by visiting and cleaning up their family graves and eating Japanese sweets called botamochi (sweet rice cakes covered in red bean paste). If you visit a supermarket or shopping street around this time you will probably find botamochi for sale, so please give it a try. 

Typically during this season, the plum blossoms are also in bloom and many plum blossom events are taking place all around Japan.

5. Showa Day - April 29th

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

Showa refers to the era of Japanese history between 1926 to 1989. Showa Day was enacted as a day on which to reflect back on the Japan of those times. On this day, admission to the Showa Memorial Park in Tachikawa, Tokyo is free, so be aware that it will be very crowded.

Origin

This day was originally celebrated as Emperor Showa's birthday. After his passing, this day was commemorated as Greenery Day, until 2006.

6. Constitution Memorial Day - May 3rd

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

This is one of the days included in the spring break known as Golden Week. There are many different events that take place on this day all across Japan. The bullet trains, roadways and all means of transportation going to any sort of sightseeing spots will be extremely crowded at this time. It’s better to avoid traveling in Japan during this time if there aren't any specific events you want to attend during Golden Week.

Origin

This day celebrates when the new Constitution of Japan was enacted on May 3rd, 1947.

7. Greenery Day - May 4th

This holiday was established with the hopes that people could show their appreciation and gratitude for the nature around them. It is connected to both Constitution Memorial Day and Children's Day as part of the Golden Week holiday. 

In order for people to truly enjoy the wonders of nature on that day, all national parks across Japan are free to the public. In some metropolitan areas, the zoos and city gardens are free as well. To learn more about Japan's national parks, please check out the Ministry of the Environment's English website.

8. Children’s Day - May 5th

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

Children's Day is part of Golden Week as well. It is a day on which people honor the individuality of their children, value their children's happiness and show their appreciation for the mothers of the children. As such, metropolitan zoos, and other areas designed with children in mind often have either free admission or discounted fees. If you are traveling with children, be sure to check prices in advance.

During this time you will see carp banners decorating many places in order to pray for the continued health and growth of children. This is a tradition that has continued since ancient times. Other traditions include eating rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves as well as other Japanese sweets.

Origin

Celebrated as the turning point of the seasons this festival was originally known as Boy's Day. From the 12th century onward, it became a seasonal festival to pray for and celebrate the growth and health of children in general.

9. Marine Day - The Third Monday in July

Held every 3rd Monday of July, Marine Day is a day on which the maritime nation of Japan prays for and celebrates the continued prosperity and bounty of its waters. As the name indicates, there are many marine and water-based events held across the nation. The Marine Self-Defense Forces bases across Japan (in Yokosuka, Sasebo, Kure, Maizuru, Ominato and other cities) have open base days (the dates and schedules of these events change yearly).
Since Nara Prefecture is the only landlocked region in Japan, they celebrate "Nara Prefecture's Mountains and Rivers Day" instead.

Origin

This day originally celebrated the return date of a steamship cruise around Tohoku which Emperor Meiji embarked on in 1876.

10. Mountain Day - August 11th

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

Established in 2014 and first celebrated in 2016, Mountain Day is the most recent national holiday in Japan. It intended to give people the chance to experience climbing the mountains and be grateful for their blessings. In 2016 for its first celebration, the Japanese Alps in Nagano prefecture, Mt. Takao in Tokyo and other mountain regions held special events. As this is a very new national holiday, some of these events may not be repeated or there will be new events in the future.

11. Obon - Around August 13th to 16th

Although not technically a national holiday, during this time many people take a brief summer break in order to return to their hometowns. Much like Golden Week and the New Year's holidays, the trains, roads and other means of public transportation are quite crowded during this week. The total number of days off taken varies from person to person and region to region, as does the time in which these holidays are taken.

In addition to August 15th, many will try to include the nearest weekend in their holidays as well.  Please refer to a calendar when making travel plans during this time.

12. Respect for the Aged Day - The Third Monday in September

The 3rd Monday in September every year is known as Respect for the Aged Day. To celebrate and give thanks to the elderly, national parks and zoos across Japan will give free entry to seniors. Most establishments will consider customers over 60 or 65 years old to be seniors.

13. Autumn Equinox Day - Around September 22nd to 23rd

Opposite to the Spring Vernal Equinox is the Autumn Equinox. Much in the same fashion as the Vernal Equinox, people take this holiday to go and visit their ancestral graves with family. There are many holidays that overlap during this period in September, so it is also known as Silver Week.

14. Citizens Day - October 1st

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

Not a national holiday, this is a day specific to Tokyo that commemorates the cities richness as a sightseeing destination. On this day many of the cultural institutions in the metropolitan area have free admission, which means that a lot of these sightseeing areas become extremely crowded.

15. Health and Sports Day - Second Monday in October

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

Dedicated to familiarizing the nation with sports and to cultivating an awareness of healthy minds and bodies. This national holiday finds gymnasiums and public sports grounds busy with sports-related events and activities.

Origin

This day commemorates the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which began on October 10th, 1964. Although the Health and Sports Day was initially held yearly on the 10th of October, now it is celebrated on the second Monday in October instead.

16. Culture Day - November 3rd

Held annually on November 3rd, Culture Day is a holiday on which people treasure the concepts of freedom and peace as well as promote cultural advancement. Art festivals sponsored by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs are held before and after this day. Many museums and galleries have free admission and hold original events of their own.

One particularly unique event is a culture festival held at Tokyo's Fuchu Prison. People might at first be a bit afraid when hearing of a festival held at a prison, but this is a safe event where many of the locals gather to enjoy meals cooked in the prison, and even purchase items made by the prisoners themselves.

Origin

Culture Day, also known as Constitution Memorial Day, takes place on May 3rd as the new Constitution of Japan was officially proclaimed on November 3rd, 1946.

17. Labor Thanksgiving Day - November 23rd

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

This is a holiday on which labor and manufacturing work is esteemed and celebrated. During this season, areas famous for fall foliage will be particularly popular and crowded.

Origin

This day was originally the date that the Emperor would perform a ceremonial offering of newly-harvested rice to the gods, to give thanks for the abundant harvest and to pray for the same in the coming year. As rice has been a staple food in Japan for centuries, this holiday is quintessentially Japanese

18. Emperor’s Birthday - December 23rd

[2018] List of Japanese Public Holidays

This is the present Emperor's birthday. On this day, many people come to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward to congratulate and offer birthday wishes to the Emperor. You should be aware that there will be strict traffic regulations around the palace during this time, even if you’re not going to the celebration at the Palace.

With this national holiday falling the day before Christmas, it is not unusual to find that many Japanese people will take off these holidays together. Or if that isn't possible, some people will celebrate Christmas on the 23rd instead, meaning that many shopping areas and restaurants will be very crowded at this time. 

The Emperor will be abdicating in April 2019, so this holiday will not be held from 2019 onward. From 2020, the birthday of the current Crown Prince, February 23rd, will become the Emperor’s Birthday.

19. New Year’s Holiday - Around December 28 to January 4

Although not public or national holidays, public transportation and most shopping areas across Japan will be particularly crowded starting from December 28th to January 4th for the New Year's holidays.
At the end of the year, the majority of people return to their hometowns, meaning that it may be difficult to get tickets for many means of long-distance travel within Japan. As many people will make preparations for the New Year, most shopping areas and business districts will become crowded as well.

Know the Holidays, Know When to Sightsee

What did you think of Japan's many national holidays? Were you surprised at how many there are?
When you are making plans to travel in Japan, check to ensure that your vacation days won't coincide with Japanese holidays. If they do, do your research about where to go to avoid the crowds.

If you know what to expect at certain times of the year, you’ll have a much smoother and more pleasant trip.

*This article was rewritten from the original, published on November 30th, 2016.

Pin reddit