Public holidays in Japan: 2020 dates and meaning

National holidays in Japan

Holidays in Japan are unique, spectacular occasions which visitors, as well as locals, can enjoy. However, they are also very busy times of the year so travelers should expect crowds on Japan’s transportation system and higher prices for accommodation.

Visitors should also be aware that events such as the Obon Festival, the cherry blossom season, Golden Week, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are also very busy times of year to visit Japan. Add to that the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Japan is about to become an even hotter spot for holidaymakers.  

People catching shinkansen bullet trains should make early reservations during these periods when possible.

Public holidays in Japan

Bon Odori paper lanterns

  • New Year’s Day: Families gather to see in the new year and businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3. People throw bonenkai parties (“forgetting parties”) to symbolize leaving behind last year’s problems and making a fresh start.
  • Coming of Age Day: Coming of Age Day is held on the second Monday of January. It is held to congratulate all the young people who have turned 20 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year (the age will be lowered to 18 in 2022). Special ceremonies are held nationwide.
  • National Foundation Day: February 11 marks National Foundation Day and it is a nationwide celebration of patriotism. The celebrations are fairly lowkey though there are some events in Tokyo and the other big cities.
  • The Emperor’s Birthday is also a Japanese national holiday. It’s celebrated on the birthday of the reigning Emperor. Following the accession of Emperor Naruhito in 2019, the Emperor’s Birthday holiday has been moved from 23 December (Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s birthday) to February 23, actual Emperor Naruhito’s birthday.
  • Showa Day: Showa Day is held on April 29 and it honors the birthday of Emperor Showa (Hirohito). Showa means “bright peace” in Japanese and it symbolizes the era of his reign (from 1926 to 1989).
  • Constitution Memorial Day: May 3 marks the Constitution Memorial Day. It is part of Golden Week and celebrates the 1947 Constitution of Japan which came into effect a couple of years after the end of World War II.
  • Greenery Day: It is celebrated on May 4 of each year and is dedicated to the contemplation of nature. This day is part of Golden Week. Until 2006, the celebration was held on April 29, but since 2007 it became Shōwa Day in honor of the emperor who reigned in Japan for 62 years and particularly during World War II.
  • Children’s Day: Children’s Day takes place on May 5 and marks the end of Golden Week. It is an ancient celebration which respects the happiness and personalities of children. Families play with traditional toys and eat special types of cakes.
  • Marine Day: Marine Day (also known as Sea Day) takes place on the third Monday of July. In 2020, it’s going to be pushed forward a week and celebrated on July 23, the day before the Olympics opening ceremony. The holiday celebrates the seaand its importance to Japan as it is an island nation. Many local people take advantage of this day to enjoy the beach.
  • Mountain Day: Mountain Day is celebrated on August 11. It is Japan’s newest holiday as it was only introduced in 2014. The day gives people the chance to enjoy Japan’s stunning mountains by going hiking and enjoying other activities.
  • Respect for the Aged Day: Respect for the Aged Day is held to honor Japan’s elderly citizens. It is held on the third Monday of September. The day was introduced in 1966 and the media often use the day as an opportunity the highlight the country’s oldest people.
  • Sports Day: The second Monday of October is Health and Sports Day. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Gamesand promotes sports and living an active lifestyle. In 2020, Sports Day has been shifted from October to July 24, the same day of the opening ceremony.
  • Culture Day: Culture Day promotes the arts and learning and it takes place on November 3. Typical activities include exhibitions, parades, and award ceremonies for distinguished artists and scholars.
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day: Labor Thanksgiving Day is held on November 23. Events are held throughout the country including the Nagano Labor Festival which encourages people to think about the environment, peace and human rights.

Japanese firewokrs during holidays, Tokyo

Japanese holiday calendar 2020

In order to accommodate the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Japan has decided to shuffle the dates of some of its national holidays.

Check the list below for the exact public national and consecutive holidays in Japan in 2020:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Coming of Age Day – January 13
  • Foundation Day – February 11
  • Emperor’s birthday – February 23-24
  • Vernal Equinox Day – March 20
  • Showa Day – April 29
  • Constitution Day – May 3
  • Greenery Day – May 4
  • Children’s Day – May 5
  • Constitution Memorial Day (observed) – May 6 (additional day for Golden Week)
  • Sea Day or Marine Day – July 23 (date changed only for 2020)
  • Sports Day – July 24 (date changed only for 2020)
  • Mountain Day – August 10 (date changed only for 2020)
  • Respect for the Aged Day – September 21
  • Autumnal Equinox Day – September 22
  • Culture Day – November 3
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23

Japanese holiday calendar 2021

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Coming of Age Day – January 11
  • Foundation Day – February 11
  • Emperor’s birthday – February 23
  • Vernal Equinox Day – March 20
  • Showa Day – April 29
  • Constitution Day – May 3
  • Greenery Day – May 4
  • Children’s Day – May 5
  • Sea Day or Marine Day – July 19
  • Mountain Day – August 11
  • Respect for the Aged Day – September 20
  • Autumnal Equinox Day – September 23
  • Sports Day – October 11
  • Culture Day – November 3
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23

 

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