The Public Holiday Law of 1948 (as amended) establishes the occasions on which Japan has a legal holiday.

  • You will see, with a couple of exceptions, Japan tends to celebrate the human condition and its special phases as well as its appreciation of nature.
  • Whereas in America usually celebrate an individual's accomplishments or a special event.

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Japanese National Holiday

January New Year (January 1)
  • A Time of Renewal
    January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year's first sunrise and traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just commenced. Therefore, the day is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done.
  • Celebration marked by rituals and greetings
    Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together. There are numerous ceremonies and rituals throughout entire month of January. In recent years, more people have been taking advantage of the long holiday to travel to the abroad.
  • Special New Year Dishes - Osechi Ryori
  • The custom of Nenshi, or paying calls on friends and relatives to greet them
  • The children are presented by their parents with New Year's gifts Otoshi-dama (money in envelope). The relatives and close friends bring Otoshi-dama when they visit.
  • Sending Nengajo (New Year's cards), is custom. The morning of New Year's Day, mailmen make bundled cards deliveries to each house.

      I just listed only a few items. You may explore Internet to get full scope of New Year's.

Coming-of-age (2nd Monday of January)
  • All people who turn 20 this year are celebrated.
  • It is also the minimum legal age for voting, drinking, and smoking. But they also must bear the responsibilities of adults. 
  • Until 2000, Coming-of-Age Day always fell on January 15th.

February National Foundation Day (February 11)
  • As a day to reflect on the establishment of the nation and to nourish a love for the country.
  • Prior to World War II, it marked the ascension of Emperor Jimmu to the throne, in 660 BC, as the first Japanese emperor, according to the Nihonshoki.

March Vernal equinox (around March 23)
  • The admiration of nature and the love of living things.
  • Around this time, various Buddhist sects celebrate the spring higan. Many people visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects to their ancestors, washing the tombstone, tidying up the site, and offering flowers.

April Shōwa Day (April 29)
  • This national holiday began as the birthday of the Shōwa Emperor.
  • It honours the birthday of Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989), the reigning Emperor before, during, and after World War II.
  • The official purpose of the holiday is "To reflect on Japan's Shōwa Period when recovery was made after turbulent days, and to think of the country's future."

May Constitution Day (May 3)
  • Commemmorates the date on which Japan's postwar constitution took effect.
  • The "Macarthur Constitution" replaced the Meiji Constitution in 1947 and this date became a holiday in the following year.

  Greenery Day (May 4)
  • Until 2006, Greenery Day was celebrated on April 29, the former Emperor Showa's birthday, due to the emperor's love for plants and nature.

  Children’s Day (May 5)
  • Celebrates the sound growth of children and prays for their happiness.
  • Though officially dedicated to children, this day is actually considered Boys' Day or Tango no sekku (Iris Festival). In the weeks preceding, families with young boys erect a tall pole and fly Carp windsocks and streamers. The carp, swimming upstream, is a symbol of strength and endurance, and it is hoped that the boys will achieve these qualities. The Edo period samurai custom of flying streamers in the shape of Koi continues.

July Marin Day (3rd Monday in July)
  • A recently introduced national holiday to celebrate the ocean.
  • The day marks the return of Emperor Meiji from a boat trip to Hokkaido in 1876.
  • The love the late Emperor Hirohito had for the sea as well as the contribution the ocean makes to the Japanese way of life.

September Respect-for-the-Aged Day (3rd Monday)
  • The day to love and respect the old who have exerted themselves to the society over many years, and celebrate their longevity.

  Autumnal equinox Day (around September 23)
  • This day is the counterpart of Vernal Equinox Day, and on this day the sun crosses the equator again, making night and day of equal length.
  • Just as in spring, in Buddhist temples, special services for ancestors are performed, and people clean the tombs of their ancestors and pay homage to their spirits, offering flowers and incense.

      Image is my family tombs in Japan. "House of Shimizu".

October Health and Sports Day (2nd Monday)
  • This is a day to promote a healthy mind and body - in this spirit people may get physical exams, participate in sports meets, etc.

November Culture Day (November 3)
  • The day to love freedom and peace and promote culture.
  • On this day the government announces the name of those who have contributed to the advancement of this nation's culture, and several of them are awarded a "Cultural Medal" by the Emperor at the Imperial Palace.





  Labor Thanksgiving Day (November 23)
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day is the modern name for an ancient rice harvest festival, believed to have been held as long ago as November of 678.
  • The law establishing the holiday cites it as an occasion for commemorating labor and production and giving one another thanks. recognize the importance of labor and to express our gratitude to working people.
  • Also encourages thinking about the environment, peace and human rights.


December Emperor’s Birthday (December 23)
  • The current Heisei Emperor Akihito was born on this date in 1933.
  • The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is open to the public, and hundreds of thousands of well-wishers wave flags in honor of the occasion.


Non-National Holiday

February Setsubun - Seasonal Division (February 3)
  • For many centuries, the people of Japan have been performing rituals with the purpose of chasing away evil spirits at the start of spring.
  • Around the 13th century, it became a custom to drive away evil spirits.
  • In modern days, the most commonly performed setsubun ritual is the throwing of roasted beans around one's house and at temples and shrines across the country. When throwing the beans, you are supposed to shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" ("Devils out, happiness in"). Afterwards you should pick up and eat the number of beans, which corresponds to your age.

February Valentine's Day (February 14)
  • Valentine’s Day with a twist. In Japan, girls give gifts to boys on Valentine’s Day but boys don't reciprocate until a month later on White Day. Chocolate is the gift of choice.

March Girl’s Doll Festival - Hina-matsuri (March 3)
  • This is traditional Girls' Festival.
  • Another name for it is Momo no sekku (the Peach Festival). Girls display a set of dolls dressed in costumes of courtiers of the Heian period (794-1192). Many families pass these dolls from generation to generation.

March White Day (March 14)
  • While women give gifts to men on Valentine's Day in Japan, on White Day, men should return the favor and give gifts to women from whom they received gifts, or to women in whom they are romantically interested.

April Flower Festival - Hana Matsuri (April 8)
  • Birth of Buddha. When he was born the birds sang, the flowers bloomed and sweet rain fell from the heavens to welcome him - which explains all the flowers and sweet tea in today's ceremonies. Straight after he was born, Buddha took seven steps, with a lotus blossom appearing in every footprint. He pointed simultaneously upwards and downwards saying: "I am alone in heaven and on Earth", and nine dragons descended from heaven and baptized him with pure water.

May Mother’s Day (2nd Sunday of May)
  • In Japan is almost the same as that in the United States. A day to respect and thank mothers.
  • It is most common in Japan to give red carnation to mothers. Also people often send other gifts as well as flower, such as handkerchiefs, scarves, handbags, wallets.

June Father’s Day 3rd Sunday of June)
  • A day for expressing gratitude to fathers.

Jul or Aug Star Festival - Tanabata (July/August 7)
  • Tanabata, also known as the "star festival", takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year, when, according to a Chinese legend, the two stars Altair and Vega, which are usually separated from each other by the milky way, are able to meet.
  • Because the 7th month of the year roughly coincides with August rather than July according to the formerly used lunar calendar, Tanabata is still celebrated on August 7th in some regions of Japan, while it is celebrated on July 7th in other regions.
  • One popular Tanabata custom is to write one's wishes on a piece of paper, and hang that piece of paper on a specially erected bamboo tree, in the hope that the wishes become true.

Jul or Aug Obon July/August 13-15)
  • Obon is a festival to commemorate the deceased ancestors.
  • Because the spirits of the dead are said to return at this time, this is a festival for welcoming them home, making offerings to them and holding memorial services. In this season, in spite of huge crowds, many people want to return back to hometowns like New Year season.
  • Fires are lit at the entrances to homes so the spirits of ancestors do not lose their way, and, in addition to lanterns being lit inside homes, the Buddhist family alters are tidied up and vegetables and fruit are set out as offerings. And when O-bon is over, the spirits are sent on their way by fires to speed their seeing off at entrances of homes.

Aug or Sep Moon viewing - Tsukimi (Aug/Sep 15)
  • Moon viewing is a custom to appreciate the full moon in the middle of September (the night of August 15, juugo-ya, by the lunar calendar). The custom was introduced from China, and spread in the Heian period (794-1192). The original form of tsukimi is to liken the moon to a divinity, and to pray for a plentiful harvest of rice. "Tsukimi dango (dumplings)," "susuki (Japanese pampas grass)," seasonal fruits and sake are offered to the moon. 
  • In ancient times the Japanese believed that rabbits lived on the moon, and they made "mochi (rice cakes)" with a wooden pestle. You might see them on the day of the full moon ...

November 7-5-3 [Shichi-go-san] (November 15)
  • 7-5-3 is a traditional rite of passage and festival day for children.
  • Prayers are offered for children's growth.
  • Because odd numbers are considered auspicious in Japan, the odd numbered years of this important period of a child's growth - that is, the ages of three and five for boys, three and seven for girls - are celebrated.
  • Children dress up in their gala dresses and go with their parents to a shrine to pay a visit to the deity there, and children are given chitose-ame (thousand-year candy).

Far left image: My niece Megumi wearing formal kimono for her 7-5-3. Left image is my nephew Toshihiro's 3 years old 7-5-3. He is holding "Chitose-ame".

December Christmas (December 24-25)
  • Christmas in Japan is very popular. Many traditionally western symbols, such as carols, Santa Claus and strings of lights, and the eating of Christmas cakes have become part of the celebration. In addition, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is popular during Christmas and the following week.

  New Year's Eve - Ōmisoka (December 31)
  • People do the complete house cleaning to welcome coming year and not to keep having impure influences. Many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight(joya no kane). This is to announce the passing of the old year and the coming of the new. The reason they are rung 108 times is because of the Buddhist belief that human beings are plagued by 108 earthly desires or passions (bonno). With each ring one desire is dispelled. It is also a custom to eat toshikoshi soba ("year-crossing noodles") in the hope that one's family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

There are hundreds of regional festivals year around, mostly in the summer

The ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto is taken back in time during the Gion Matsuri, Jidai Matsuri, and Aoi Matsuri. Those are three the greatest festivals in Kyoto.

Matsuri means festival.

gion festivaljidai festivalaoi festivalchichibu matsuri

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