A professor of mine has a day job at a Japanese company. Among its almost hundred employees, he is the only full-time employee who is a foreigner. He said and I quote, “I am the only one in the company who uses the paid days off. It means I am the only lazy one in my company.” While it might sound shocking to many, it is the culture here in japan. Working hours are usually long and people are so devoted to their work that they do not use their paid holidays. As a result, whenever there is a public holiday, it is customary to make the most out of it. One of such holidays is the Golden Week. It is a once a year opportunity for workers all over Japan to enjoy paid days off for seven (7) straight days. At least that is how people think Well, not exactly.
The term “Golden Week” appeared late 1940s. In 1948, the public holiday laws created nine (9) holidays. Many of them fell between the end of April and the first week of May. During this period, the entertainment industry experienced a huge boost in revenue. In 1951, the movie Jiyū Gakkō
shattered box office records during the “Golden Week” period. It led Daiei Film, the studio responsible for the movie, to describe the week filled with public holidays as “Golden Week.” Over the years it went through many changes.
The Golden Week currently consists of four (4) national holidays. The first holiday is April 29th. Until 1988, it was Tennō Tanjōbi
, in other words, the Emperor’s Birthday; birthday of the former Emperor of Japan; Emperor Shōwa. After his death, Tennō Tanjōbi
changed to the current December 23. Yet, from 2007, this day became an official holiday known as the Shōwa no hi
(Shōwa Day). Although this holiday was created to celebrate the birth of the late Emperor, due to the difficult times Japan faced during his reign (1926-1989), it is also a day of reflection.The second national holiday is on May 3rd
, known as Constitution Memorial Day. It celebrates the 1947 declaration of constitution of Japan. It is an important day since it gave rights that were previously non-existent in the society. After all, it was this constitution that gave women the right to own property and vote. Thus, it is also a day to reflect on democracy and liberal ideas such as equality, freedom, human rights, etc.
The third national holiday is May 4th
, Midori no hi
, in other words, Greenery Day. Until 2007, May 4th
was an unnamed official holiday. The public holiday law of 1948 dictates that any day that falls between two national holidays will also be a national holiday. The holiday was originally created due to the Emperor Shōwa’s love for flowers. However, due to his controversial reign, it is mostly celebrated as a day to express love and appreciation for the wonderful nature that Japan is blessed with. In reality, it is just another day to extend the “Golden Week.”Finally, May 5th
. Until 1948, it was known as tango no Sekku
. It celebrated the wellbeing, personality, and happiness of boys. However, it was changed to kodomo no hi
or Children’s Day. Now, girls and boys are both celebrated on this day.
These four days allow most Japanese workers to use one of their paid holidays to enjoy a whole week of without any work. However, with the right placing, this could extend to nine and even ten days at times. For example, the 2016 Golden Week. If you can take days off on May 2nd
(Monday) and May 6th
(Friday), you can enjoy ten days of holidays.
by Khalid Saifullah