Traditions and Holidays

Japan has a number of traditional holidays and celebrations throughout the year that are observed by the population at large. While some are large events, others are quieter occasions, but you should be aware that during the national holidays most businesses other than stores and shops will be closed. Another thing to keep in mind is that if any national holiday that falls on a Sunday, the next working day becomes a public holiday, and any day falling directly between two national holidays also becomes a public holiday.

National Holidays

New Year's Day - Shogatsu
New Year's Day (January 1 st ) is a celebrated throughout the country and is usually a time for family to gather together. Often times, people will go to a shrine or temple at midnight when bells are rung. People often clean their clothes and houses for New Years, as it is seen as a sign of a fresh start and toshikoshi soba, buckwheat noodles that are symbolic of longevity, are often eaten. Although not mandated by law, many companies are closed from December 29 th to January 3 rd .

Coming-of-Age-Day - Seijin no hi
On the second Monday of January, cities and towns across the country often hold celebrations honoring everyone who turns twenty in that year. Twenty is considered the age at which people reach adulthood, and incidentally is the age at which it becomes legal to vote, drink alcohol and smoke.

National Foundation Day - Kenkoku kinen no hi
A day to reflect upon the establishment of the country and promote patriotism, this day commemorates the day that, according to the oldest Japanese history records, the first emperor Jimmu ascended the throne in 660 BC.

Vernal Equinox Day - Shunbun no hi
Happens on approximately March 20 th - 21 st every year when the day and night are the same length. A time for admiring nature and the love of life, usually family graves are visited during the week of the equinox.

Showa Day - Showa no hi
April 29 th is the birthday of former emperor Showa, which is the basis for celebrating Showa Day. When he died in 1989, the holiday was still observed under the name Greenery Day, but in 2007 Greenery Day was moved to May 4 th and April 29 th reverted to being Showa Day. This holiday kicks off the period of time known as Golden Week, which runs from April 29 th to May 5 th and is packed with holidays.

Constitution Day - Kenpo Kinenbi
This national holiday on May 3 rd was established in 1948 and is continued to be observed to commemorate the nation's new constitution which came into effect after World War II.

Greenery Day - Midori no hi
Greenery Day is now celebrated on May 4 th since it changed in 2007. It was previously celebrated on the birth date of Emperor Showa after his passing in honor of his love for plants and nature.

Children's Day - Kodomo no hi
Children's Day (May 5 th ) is a day to celebrate the happiness of children and to express gratitude towards mothers. Often times Carp streamers are hung up outside, one for every child. Until recently it was mostly a day to celebrate boys, with the festival for girls being celebrated on March 3 rd .

Marine Day - Umi no hi
Marine day is held on the third Monday of July every year. First celebrated in 1996 as a way to show gratitude for the blessings of the ocean and to show hope for the future prosperity of the maritime nation of Japan .

Respect-for-the-Aged Day - Keiro no hi
This holiday, held on the third Monday of September is to celebrate longevity and promote respect for the elderly. Originally held on September 15 th , it was changed in 2003 to reflect the Happy Monday System, where many holidays were moved to a Monday in order to give people a long weekend.

Autumnal Equinox - Shubun no hi
This holiday is held around September 23 rd when for the second time in the year the day and night are of equal length. This holiday is to honor your ancestors and remember the dead, so graves are usually visited during the week of the equinox.

Health and Sports Day - Taijiku no hi
Health and Sports Day is celebrated on the Second Monday of October and is a day to enjoy sports and promote healthiness in both mind and body. Established in 1966 and originally held on October 10 th to commemorate the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but was changed to the second Monday of the month in 2000.

Culture Day - Bunka no hi
Culture Day is held on November 3 rd to celebrate the love of peace and freedom and also to promote culture. Often times, schools and governments will hand out awards on Culture Day to people for their cultural achievements.

Labor Thanksgiving Day - Kinra kansha no hi
This holiday is celebrated on November 23 rd , it was established in 1948 as an occasion for honoring labor, production and for giving thanks to each other.

Emperor's Birthday - Tenno tanjobi
Celebrated on the birthday of the current emperor and changes accordingly. The previous Emperor's Birthday holiday was held on April 29 th , please see Showa Day for details.

Annual Nationwide Observances

Beginning of Spring - Setsubun
A popular observance in Japan usually held on February 3 rd or 4 th , one day before the start of spring according to the Japanese lunar calendar. Modern traditions usually involve throwing roasted beans around the house or at a shrine or temple while shouting "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi" which means "Devil's out, happiness in". Afterward you are supposed to eat the number of beans that adds up to your age.

Valentine's Day
Celebrated on February 14 th much like western Valentine's Day. However, in Japan on Valentine 's Day the girls will go around and give gifts to the boys, but the boys will not reciprocate the gift giving until a month later on White Day. The gift of choice these days is chocolate.

Doll's Festival - Hina matsuri
Observed on March 3 rd , this festival is also referred to as Girl's Festival. On this day families with girls wish them a happy and successful life. Doll's are usually displayed about the house alongside peach blossoms.

White Day
The counterpoint to Valentine's Day, observed on March 14 th . This is the day for boys to go and give girls presents like cakes or chocolates.

Star Festival - Tanabata
Due to having it's roots in the lunar calendar, this festival is celebrated on the 7 th of either July or August depending on where you are in Japan . One popular custom is to write your wishes on a piece of paper and hang them on a bamboo tree put up for the special occasion in the hopes that your wishes will come true.

As with the Star Festival, Obon was previously celebrated on the 7 th month of the lunar calendar, it is therefore celebrated from the 13 th to the 15 th of either July or August. A Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors, tradition says it is the period when your ancestors may return to earth, so people will often hang lanterns for their deceased relatives to find their way home and even set a place for them at the table. Graves are visited and food offerings are usually made during the festival and then at the end lanterns are usually floated on a river, lake or sea to guide the spirits back. Customs may vary from place to place.

Seven-five-three - Shichigosan
A children's festival on November 15 th , with 7, 5, and 3 being special ages for children; 7 and 3 being special for girls, and 5 being a special age for boys. Parents will go to shrines to give thanks and pray for their child's health and prosperity.

Japan Medical Insurance is available throughout all of these holidays to help you with any problems that you may have. Our China office can provide in depth information and work to address any potential issues. If you would like more information about an international medical insurance plan for china, or you would like to receive a free quote, please contact us.

Call Me Back