Japan’s Golden Week


By Sharon Schweitzer


Golden Week is a significant week-long holiday in Japan, comprising four national holidays – Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. These holidays fall between April 29th and May 5th every year, and it’s customary for people to take a break from their work and studies to partake in the celebrations and travel around the country.

Spelled in katakana, the script used for English loan words, the name ‘Golden Week’ was coined in 1951, after the phrase ‘golden time’, which was widely used by the Japanese radio industry to refer to primetime listening hours. With so many holidays clustered together in Golden Week, a larger-than-usual number of people tuned in to the radio, attended movie theaters and spent money on leisure activities.

Showa Day (Showa no Hi), first celebrated in 2007, is named in honor of Hirohito (the Showa emperor) and falls on the day of his birth, April 29th. That date had previously been declared Greenery Day (Midori no Hi) after the emperor’s death in 1989, to promote the emperor’s appreciation of nature. The reason for the continued celebration of the late Emperor’s birthday is an uncertain topic, just as the extent of his power and influence pre-dating the 1945 surrender. To this day, the extent of Hirohito’s active involvement in the war, and even his opinion on the conflict, is hotly debated by historians. Many assert — as he himself later did — that most war-time decisions were made by his advisors. Others, however, believe that the Emperor had a greater hand in Japan’s war-time advances than he would like the world to believe after being spared the same fate as many other Japanese officials at the time.

In 2007 Greenery Day was moved to May 4th. Until Shōwa Day was reinstated in 2007, May 4th was a “Citizen’s Holiday,” (also called a “Public Holiday”) which is the term for national holidays that are the result of an ordinary workday falling between two holidays, which then automatically becomes a holiday as well due to Japanese law. The resulting group of holidays is called “Silver Week.” 

Constitution Day (Kempō Kinenbi), observed on May 3rd, honors the Constitution of Japan, which went into effect on May 3rd, 1947. On this day, Japanese citizens are encouraged to reflect on Japanese history and democracy. Due to this, in addition to the normal festivities associated with a national holiday, newspapers print articles on topical pieces about the day, Japanese citizens often attend lectures and speeches, and the National Diet Building is opened to the public.

Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi), also called Boy’s Festival (Tango no Sekku), is celebrated on May 5th. On this day Japanese parents pray for the health and success of their children by decorating their houses with carp-shaped streamers and displaying samurai dolls. Previously, the holiday was called Tango no Sekku (Boy’s Day), and historically celebrated only the boys of Japan. In fact, many Japanese people still view the day as an occasion to primarily honor boys. Although the holiday was not established as an official holiday until 1948, the practice can be traced back to the Nara period (710-794 CE).

In the modern-day, the festival is traditionally celebrated by raising koinobori (streamers shaped like koi fish), to represent each member of the family and to bring luck to their children. Inside Japanese homes, samurai helmets and dolls are displayed, as well as Iris flowers. Traditional snacks for the holiday include kashiwa-mochi and chimaki.

Golden Week comes at a very pleasant time of the year in Japan; temperatures are neither too cold nor too hot. Many people thus travel to resort areas. In recent years, increasing numbers have been traveling to foreign destinations with their families.


Photo by klook.com/en-US/blog/japans-golden-week/

Sharon Schweitzer JD, is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Sharon served as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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