Here at Nihongo Master, we loooove talking about Japanese holidays! While some holidays Japan adopted from the West (like Christmas and Valentine’s Day), every country also has holidays that are only celebrated by them. Golden Week in Japan ゴールデンウィーク (gōruden wīku) is not just one holiday, but FOUR holidays that align each year to provide a week of vacation for everyone! Hooray! Golden week is the third busiest travel season in Japan, after New Year and Obon. Continue reading Golden Week in Japan (ゴールデンウィーク)
Thanksgiving Day is one of the most popular holidays in America that comes in the last week of November each year. Families travel all across the country to be with their loved ones and enjoy an epic feast. But do other countries celebrate this holiday?
Halloween is almost upon us, but what exactly does that mean in Japan? Though Halloween is a decidedly American holiday more and more countries around the world are beginning to celebrate it in their own ways, and Japan is no exception. While it’s still not the national festival-for-all-ages that it is in America, you can find your share of parades, costume parties, and events.
Halloween in Japan first gained popularity when Tokyo Disneyland started holding Halloween events in the late 90s. Those events have continued ever since and have expanded across the whole country.
This week marked a relatively rare phenomenon: Silver Week in Japan. Silver week (シルバーウィーク, Shirubā Wīku) occurs every few years when several holidays happen to align, giving the Japanese a chance for a whole week of vacation. This week was the first Silver Week since 2009 and the next one won’t occur until 2026!
The holidays are:
Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日, Keirō no Hi)
– The third Monday of September (September 21, 2015)
Autumnal Equinox Day (秋分の日, Shūbun no Hi)
– September 23rd, 2015
Kokumin no kyujitsu (国民の休日)
– Any day that falls between two holidays
Because Monday was 敬老の日 and Wednesday was 秋分の日 that means Tuesday was 国民の休日! In Japan you never have to go to work if two holidays are only separated by a single day. This means you could take a vacation from the 19th to the 23rd! I don’t know about you, but I think more countries should implement this as a national policy.
So let’s talk about the two holidays that brought on this special silver week.
Respect for the Aged Day, or 敬老の日
Is exactly what it sounds like. It is a holiday to pay honor to elderly Japanese men and women around the country and celebrate their lives. Many neighborhoods will hold small festivals and performances to entertain the elderly and 弁当 (bento) are often distributed to show thanks.
Autumnal Equinox Day
Is also an important holiday in Japan. The period surrounding the spring and fall equinoxes is known as 彼岸 (higan). There is a saying in Japan, 暑さ寒さも彼岸まで (Atsusa samusa mo higan made) or “The heat and cold end with higan.” Higan technically begins three days before the equinox and ends three days after. It marks not only the changing of the seasons from summer to fall (or winter to spring in March, known as 春分の日 (Shunbun no hi)) but also a time to pay respect to the deceased. On this holiday you may travel with your family to visit the graves of ancestors who have passed. When you visit the grave you can bring offerings such as flowers and food and make sure the tombstone is clean. But don’t be too sad, higan is a time to celebrate the passing of your ancestors to nirvana, not to mourn their passing from this world.
With both higan and 敬老の日 falling this week, many Japanese had the chance to take a vacation. Many probably spent this time with their families, but surely some took the opportunity to travel abroad or visit a new place in Japan they’ve never been.
If you were in Japan for Silver Week, how did you spend your holiday?
New Year in Japan (正月Shōgatsu) is by far the most important holiday in Japan. Let’s learn Japanese Shōgatsu traditions. The beginning of a new year symbolizes a fresh start and the ability to leave everything behind. This is sometimes celebrated with a Bonenkai (忘年会) party in December to “forget the year,” and put the troubles from the past year behind you. While they are fun parties with lots of drinking, they are not part of the official Shōgatsu celebration, which lasts from the 31st of December until the 2nd or 3rd of January. As New Year in Japan is such an important holiday, there is a lot of preparation to be done leading up to it.
Christmas is a magical time of year for many people around the world. It is a time for family, a time for giving, and a time for lots and lots of delicious food. But how are Japanese Christmas traditions different from Western ones? Does Japan even have Christmas traditions? Well, despite only 1% of Japan’s population being Christian, the Japanese have fully embraced the Christmas season. From decorating the house, getting a Christmas tree, and even sending cards and gifts, Christmas in Japan looks very similar to a Western Christmas. Let’s learn Japanese Christmas traditions!