Destination Guide | Tokyo Japan

National Holidays

Some Public Holidays are linked to religious or agriculture traditions following the lunar calendar. Therefore, the dates change each year. Special holiday weeks include Golden Week and Obon in May and August respectively.

Golden Week is held from April 29 - May 5. Businesses and government offices close for all or part of Golden Week.

In Obon many companies and small shops also close for all or part of the week. Obon is not an official public holiday. The dates fluctuate from year to year and from business to business. National holidays falling on Sundays transfer to Mondays.

Date Event
January 1-2 New Year's Day
The only official New Years holiday is Jan.1, but as a custom most companies take at least 3 days off. Many Tokyoites make use of this extended holiday to visit their hometown to see family and friends. The traditional New Years greeting among family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, is “A Happy New Year, I ask your kind assistance this year, again ”(Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu, kotoshimo dōzo yoroshiku).
(Second Monday)
Celebrates men and women who have reached the age of 20. Usually young adults dress in kimono and listen to speeches at city/town hall.
February 11 National Foundation Day
According to ancient history, February 11 in 660 B.C. was when the first Japanese emperor was crowned.
March 20 Vernal Equinox
Celebrates the coming of spring.
April 29 Greenery Day
Celebrates nature. Originally the Showa emperors birthday; after his death, it was changed to Greenery Day to honor his interest in Japans flora.
May 3 Constitution Day
Day the new constitution was adopted after WWII.
May 4 Undesignated Holiday
Recently created national holiday to make the Golden Week continuous holidays, including Saturday & Sunday.
May 5 Children's Day
Families with children celebrate their growth and development. In olden times, many houses with boys were adorned with carp streamers/carp-shaped windsocks (Koinobori) and a warrior doll (Musha ningyō) with a helmet (Kabuto) and a replica sword. Parents measure their childrens height and mark it on a pillar every year. Special sweet Kashiwa-mochi is served. The associated festival is now called Boys Festival, in contrast to Girls Festival (March 3). Children’s Day typically marks the end of the Golden Week.
July 20 Marine Day
This is newly recognized as a national holiday. Celebrates calm seas to avoid marine accident.
(Third Monday)
Respect for the Aged
Respect and affection are given to the elderly with wishes for a long life.
September 23 Autumnal Equinox Day
(Second Monday)
Sports Day
In memory of Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, this was added to the national holiday for fostering a healthy mind and body through sports.
November 3 Culture Day
Promotes culture, the love of freedom and peace. Cultural festivals are held at schools and public places. The government/emperor confers the Order of Culture (Bunka-Kunshū) on distinguished people for their contribution to Japanese culture.
November 23 Labor Day
Originally an imperial harvest festival, Labor Day honors all workers and production.
December 23 Emperor's Birthday
The current emperor was born on this day. People visit the Imperial Palace (usually off-limit to the public) to attend a public ceremony.
December 31 New Years Eve
Most people stay up until midnight to hear the temple bells ring 108 times, and first thing in the morning, quite a number of people call at their neighborhood shrine/temple nearby to pay their respects, pray for good health or wealth, and make an offering of money. By the time people come back from the temple or shrine, bundles of New Year′s Greeting-cards (Nenga-Jou) are delivered. On New Years Day, children get money (Otoshidama) from parents and other family members and/or relatives (like a Christmas present). In the old days, children went out and played with spinning tops (Koma-mawashi), kites (Tako-age), battledore and shuttlecock (Hane-tsuki) in the garden/field. The traditional New Years Day meal is called Osechi.