One of the lesser-celebrated unique points about Japan (and very important if you work in Japan) is that it has many public holidays – 16 in total, compared to just 10 in the United States. And as you will find out, the nature of these holidays – what they commemorate and celebrate – are pretty interesting too. Check out the dates below (along with their explanations) to see which days you can take off!

Japanese law states that if a public holiday falls on Sunday, the holiday is “transferred” to the next working day, hence the name “transfer holiday” (furikae kyuujitsu). Furthermore, a “citizen’s holiday” (kokumin no kyuujitsu) occurs when a day is sandwiched between two public holidays, resulting in a three-day break.

Overview

Day Name of holiday
January 1st New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu)
2nd Monday of January Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi)
February 11th National Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinen no Hi)
March 20th or 21st Vernal Equinox Day (Shunbun no Hi)
April 29th Showa Day (Showa no Hi)
May 3rd Constitutional Memorial Day (Kenpou Kinenbi)
May 4th Greenery Day (Midori no Hi)
May 5th Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi)
3rd Monday of July Marine Day (Umi no Hi)
August 11th Mountain Day (Yama no Hi)
3rd Monday of September Respect for the Aged Day (Keirou no Hi)
September 22nd or 23rd Autumnal Equinox Day (Shuubun no Hi)
2nd Monday of October Health and Sports Day (Taiiku no Hi)
November 3rd Culture Day (Bunka no Hi)
November 23rd Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinrou Kansha no Hi)
December 23rd The Emperor’s Birthday (Tennou Tanjyoubi)

January–March

  • January 1st - New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu) - To celebrate the new year. Most companies are closed from December 29th to January 3rd, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy New Year’s festivities and Japanese Shogatsu traditions!
  • Second Monday in January - Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi) - To congratulate new adults (reaching the age of 20) and encourage them to be aware of their new responsibilities. Commemorates the First Full Moon Festival (the 15th of the first month), which was when genpuku (historical Japanese coming-of-age) ceremonies were conducted.
  • February 11th - National Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinen no Hi) - To reflect of the founding of the nation and cultivate love for the country, as Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan, is said to have ascended the throne on this day in 660 BC.
  • March 20th or 21st - Vernal Equinox Day (Shunbun no Hi) - To celebrate nature and care for living things. The exact date is announced on the first weekday of February of the year before.

April–June

  • April 29th* - Showa Day (Showa no Hi) - To celebrate the achievements of the Showa period and think about the country’s future, as Emperor Hirohito, the Showa emperor, was born on this day.
  • May 3rd* - Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpou Kinenbi) - To commemorate the day the national constitution went into effect (in 1947), reflect on the meaning of democracy, and encourage the growth of the country.
  • May 4th* - Greenery Day (Midori no Hi) - To appreciate and become closer with nature, and nurture a rich spirit.
  • May 5th* - Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi) - To respect the personalities of children, pray for their happiness, and give thanks to their mothers. It is the Japanese equivalent of the Dragon Boat Festival (Tango no Sekku) - celebrate by flying carp banners!
  • No public holidays in June...keep working hard!

July–September

  • Third Monday of September - Marine Day (Umi no Hi) - To give thanks to the blessings of the ocean and pray for the prosperity of Japan as an island nation...and a chance to go to the beach! Commemorates the day the Meiji Emperor safely returned to Yokohama port after a tour of Hokkaido and the Tohoku region by steamboat on July 20th, 1876.
  • August 11th - Mountain Day (Yama no Hi) - To appreciate Japan’s mountains and give thanks to the blessings of the mountains. It will first be observed in 2016; if the ocean gets its own holiday, why not mountains? Enjoy the extra day off!
  • Third Monday of September - Respect for the Aged Day (Keirou no Hi) - To respect elders and their contributions to society, and celebrate their long lives. A fitting holiday for the country with the longest life expectancy in the world!
  • September 22nd or 23rd - Autumnal Equinox Day (Shuubun no Hi) - To honor ancestors and pay respects to the deceased. The exact date is announced on the first weekday of February of the year before.

October–December

  • Second Monday of October - Health and Sports Day (Taiiku no Hi) - To enjoy sports and foster a healthy mind and body. Commemorates the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, on October 10th, 1964. Many schools often hold their field days on this holiday.
  • November 3rd - Culture Day (Bunka no Hi) - To love freedom and peace, and promote culture and the arts. Commemorates the day the new Japanese constitution was proclaimed in 1946, and also falls on the birthday of the Meiji emperor Mutsuhito. Museums often hold special exhibitions and even make entry free of charge so take advantage!
  • November 23rd - Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinrou Kansha no Hi) - To praise labor and celebrate production while giving thanks to one another.​
  • December 23rd - The Emperor’s Birthday (Tennou Tanjoubi) - To celebrate the birthday of the Heisei emperor Akihito, starting from the beginning of his reign in 1989. Changes according to the birthday of the reigning emperor.

* part of Golden Week - enjoy the long break!