Public and National Holidays in Japan

With so many national holidays in Japan, it is certainly worth keeping them in mind when planning your travels. Busy travel periods, occasional closing of key museums and buildings and a traditional festival or two during the national holidays are worth planning around.  Take a look at our calendar below when planning your trip; whether trying Japanese "Christmas cake" appeals to you, or you'd rather give Golden Week a miss, we've got you covered.

  • 31st December - 1st January

    New Year's Eve - Ōmisoka / New Year - Shōgatsu

    The beginning of the year is arguably Japan's most important holiday. Forget flimsy resolutions that expire by February, the Japanese have bonenkai parties ("year forgetting parties"), set about spring cleaning their homes, and send each other Nengajo ?New Year' cards and bring in the new year with 108  chimes of temple bells. Most workplaces are closed from 1st - 3rd January to celebrate the occasion which means that most museums and government buildings such as Tokyo's Metropolitan Government are likely to be closed. 

  • January - March 2017

  • Second Monday of January

    Coming of Age - Seijin no Hi

    Despite tracing this tradition back to 714 AD, a national holiday to congratulate those "coming of age" (turning 20) with parties and ceremonies wasn't officially established until 1948. The festival is a unique opportunity to see 20 year olds in their kimono around big university cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto.

    Confirmed future dates:

    *8th   January 2018
    *14th January 2019

  • 11th February

    National Foundation Day - Kenkoku Kinen no Hi

    Legend has it that Emperor Jimmu founded Japan on this day in 660 BC.

  • 14th February

    Valentine's Day

    Valentines is not a national holiday, but it is recognised by Japan?sort of. On Valentine's Day, it is traditional for women to give chocolates to men. Seem a little unfair? On 14th March, the favour is returned and women are gifted with sweet treats and flowers.

  • 3rd March

    Doll's Festival – Hinamatsuri

    Also known as Girls' Day, traditionally dressed dolls are displayed throughout February as a symbol of hope for girls' futures. They are taken down no later than 4th March - any later may, supposedly, lead to a later marriage for the little lady. This is not a national holiday, but is a traditional festival celebrated across Japan.

  • 14th March

    White Day

    As mentioned on Valentine's Day, roles reverse and women receive gifts from men. It isn't a national holiday, but it is a nice thing to do.

  • Between 19th 22nd March,

    Vernal Equinox Day - Shunbun no Hi

    Honouring the official change of the seasons, the date of Vernal Equinox Day changes from year to year depending on astronomical variations. The public holiday leads up to the renowned cherry blossom season which takes Japan by storm from late March into April. 

  • 29th April 5th May

    Golden Week

    With four national holidays in a single week it's unsurprising that many people take Golden Week off to go on holiday, and popular attractions tend to get very busy. If you book in advance, Golden Week is a great experience with all sorts of traditional festivals taking place. However, it's worth noting that the Shinkansen (bullet train) will probably be full of people so it is worth booking yourself the Green Car tickets for a better chance of getting a seat.

  • April - June 2017

  • 29th April

    Shōwa Day - Showa no hi

    The first Golden Week occasion is Sh?wa Day; each year the birthday of Emperor Sh?wa offers a chance to reflect on his turbulent reign between 1926 and 1988.

  • 3rd May

    Constitution Day - Kenpo Kinenbi

    A reminder of the postwar constitution, with new democratic legislation, that commenced on this day in 1947.

  • 4th May

    Greenery Day - Midori no Hi

    Greenery Day is a chance to count blessings and spend time in nature. Previously on the 29th April to coincide with Emperor Sh?wa's birthday (and his love for the outdoors), it became an additional national holiday in May.

  • 5th May

    Children's Day - Kodomo no Hi

    Rounding off Golden Week with a riot of colour, Children's Day is an ancient festival that was originally for boys, before opening up to include all children. Look to the skies for strings of koinobori flags "swimming" in the breeze.

  • 7th July/August

    Star Festival – Tanabata

    According to Chinese legend, two stars (Altair and Veg) can only reach each other on the 7th day of the 7th month. Somewhat confusingly, because the date was originally marked in the lunar calendar (rather than the Gregorian) they meet at two different times depending on which part of Japan you find yourself in - either the 7th July or the 7th August.

  • July - September 2017

  • 15th July / August

    Obon

    Similarly, this three day Buddhist festival occurs most commonly around the 15th August, but can also be on the 15th July, particularly in Eastern Japan. Technically not a national holiday, it is still one of Japan's busiest holiday seasons with many people travelling to ancestral homes and graves. One of the oldest of the Japanese holidays, it has been celebrated for more than 500 years. Like Golden Week, Obon is a great chance to see traditional festivals and Obon dances across the country. It is also worth noting that Shinkansen (bullet trains) across mainland Japan and domestic flights to places such as Okinawa will get booked up and busy.

  • Third Monday of July (17th July)

    Marine Day - Umi no Hi

    A day for an island nation to give thanks to the ocean. Historically it memorialises the Meiji Emperor's 1876 voyage to Hakodate.


    Confirmed future dates:

    *16th July 2018
    *15th July 2019

  • 11th August

    Mountain Day - Yama no Hi

    70% of Japan is mountainous, so it seems only right that there is a day to encourage everyone to clock-off and head to the mountains.

  • Third Monday of September

    Respect for the Aged Day - Keiro no Hi

    There are parties and presents galore for older people on the third Monday of September. The government even gifts octogenarians a commemorative silver sake cup. Kanpai (Cheers)!

  • 22nd or 23rd September

    Autumn Equinox Day - Shubun no hi

    As with the Vernal Equinox day, we must look to the skies to determine whether the Autumn Equinox will take place on the 22nd or 23rd September.

  • Second Monday of October (9th October)

    Health and Sports Day - Taiiku no h

    Back in 1964, the summer Olympics came to Tokyo. To mark the momentous occasion, it's now a day to don your trainers and tackle a range of challenges; from long jump and relay, to the more serious tournaments of tug of war, ball toss and the three-legged race.


    Confirmed future dates:

    *8th   October 2018
    *14th October 2019

  • October - December 2017

  • 3rd November

    Culture Day - Bunka no Hi

    A day to promote culture with art exhibitions, lively parades and awards ceremonies for the most distinguished.

  • 15th November

    Seven-Five-Three - Shichi-Go-San

    A rite of passage for girls aged three and seven years-old, and boys three and five-years old with traditional rituals. One of the sweetest being the distribution of chitose ame ("thousand year candy"); the images of turtles and cranes on the packet symbolise long life.

  • 23rd November

    Labour Thanksgiving Day - Kinro Kansha no Hi

    The clue is in the title! Labor Thanksgiving Day is a modern equivalent of the Niiname-sai harvest festival where one would thank the Gods for the harvest. Similarly, these days it's a chance to express gratitude.

  • 23rd December

    Emperor's Birthday - Tenno Tanjobi

    The birthday of the current emperor is always a national holiday - Emperor Akihito's falls on the 23rd December.

  • 24/25th December

    Christmas

    Christianity is a minority religion in Japan, but many Christmas traditions have been adopted with a Japanese twist - huge Christmas light displays and 'Christmas dinner' usually at KFC. Christmas is not a national holiday and life continues as normal.

  • Festivals, events and when to travel

    Ever wondered where to spot the dolls at Hinamatsuri, or find the best oshikoshi soba to tuck into at New Year? Our blog is full of insider knowledge. There are thousands of traditional festivals across Japan taking place throughout the year; from Hadaka Matsuri (Naked festival) in places such as Okayama to Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori. The summer is a particularly good time to stumble across a festival and they are a lot of fun, or if festivals are not your thing, there's lots of cultural events and activities to experience - please read our blog to find out more!

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  • Festivals and events

    Our blog is full of insider knowledge and there are thousands of traditional festivals across Japan taking place throughout the year!

    Read more >
  • When to go

    Check out our blog for top tips about the best times to visit Japan or ask our experts for advice when planning your trip.

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  • Experiences

    Have a look at our experiences page to see more information and ideas on what to do in Japan!

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