Public holidays in Japan: 2024 dates and meaning

National holidays in Japan

Holidays in Japan are unique, spectacular occasions that 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 accommodation prices.

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.

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

Public holidays in Japan

Bon Odori paper lanterns

Japan has 16 public holidays throughout the year. Let’s break down the most important:

  • 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 18 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year. Special ceremonies are held nationwide.
  • National Foundation Day: February 11 marks National Foundation Day. It is a nationwide celebration of patriotism. The celebrations are fairly low-key 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, the current Emperor Naruhito’s birthday.
  • Showa Day: Showa Day is held on April 29.  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. In 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 typically takes place on May 5 and marks the end of Golden Week. It is an ancient celebration that 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 3rd Monday of July. The holiday celebrates the sea and its importance to Japan as an island nation. Many local people take advantage of this day to enjoy the beach.
  • Mountain Day: Mountain Day is usually 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 3rd Monday of September. The day was introduced in 1966 and the media often use the day as an opportunity to 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 Games and promotes sports and living an active lifestyle.
  • Culture Day: Culture Day promotes the arts and learning. It normally 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. This encourages people to think about the environment, peace and human rights.

Japanese firewokrs during holidays, Tokyo

Japanese holiday calendar 2024

Check the list below for the exact public national and consecutive holidays in Japan in 2023:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Coming of Age Day – January 8 (2nd Monday in January)
  • Foundation Day – February 11 (observed on February 12)
  • 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 (observed on May 6)
  • Sea Day or Marine Day – July 15 (3rd Monday in July)
  • Mountain Day – August 11 (observed on August 12)
  • Respect for the Aged Day – September 16 (3rd Monday in September)
  • Autumnal Equinox Day – September 22 (observed on September 23)
  • Sports Day – October 14 (2nd Monday in October)
  • Culture Day – November 3 (observed on November 4)
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23

There will be more 3-day weekends in 2024 than normal because several Japanese holidays with set dates fall on Sunday. Therefore, they’ll be observed on Monday, or take place on Friday or Monday.

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