Holidays of Japan

Our impression of Japanese is that of worker bees, but they have a 15 day extended paid holiday, which is either used or not used. Let us look at the various attitudes towards holidays and the way of life.

Holidays in Japan can be categorized into 2 types: those of ceremonial and those for leisure.

The most important ceremonial holiday is the New Year’s. For a week during New Year all corporates are closed and people visit their ancestral home towns to spend their time and relax with their families. In August is Obon, to commemorate the deceased, people visit their family graves. It is believed that the spirits of the ancestors visit in this time of the year, floating lanterns are let to guide the ancestors’ path back.

The most prominent holiday for leisure happens in April, we usually know it as golden week. It is 4 public holidays close to each other which sometimes can mean a week of holidays. It is the perfect season to go out and have fun as it is not too hot or cold. Many go to the seas or mountain. Unlike India, All Japanese people take holidays at the same time, around New Year, bon, golden week. During these times the transport is congested and making these refreshing holidays anything but restful. The top 5 domestic destinations are Hokkaido (ski and flowers), Okinawa (tropical beaches), chiba (amusement parks), nagano and shizuoka (hot springs). Japan has very scenic places to rest and take a break away from the busy concrete life.

Japanese people are hard workers, until the 19th century there was never a customary holiday in the week, so they literally worked 365 days except for Obon and New Year. The one exception was pilgrimages to the Ise Jingu shrine to worship the sun and agriculture, it was a once in a life time holiday they would take to make the pilgrimage much like the mecca pilgrimage.

This was when Japan was opening up to the west. With the opening up, resort and hotels were built for foreigners. 1947 a set of paid holidays was instituted. In the 1960 the post war economy started to bloom and many Japanese had extra income to spend on and indulge in their free time, tourism thrived. Leisure became as important as the work. In 1970 company trips became popular. This blurred the between work place relationships and leisure. Later the number of paid holidays was increased to 10 days a year in response to trade frictions caused by international trade. The mid 80’s the bubble economy emerged and 2 day holidays – Saturday and Sunday became more common. Now the average paid holidays has risen to 18 and there are still many who don’t use them.

The reason for lack of taking what is given to them is people cannot get to replace their work with someone else or inconvenience their coworkers or a turn towards what the other people think if only one person take holiday while the others work, this social pressure cycle leads to no one taking their paid vacations. This has lead companies to encourage their workers to take holidays by implementing new schemes like, anniversary holidays, support workload of coworkers, extra monetary benefit specific to vacation. These companies have seen no less in productivity in their work and employees can enjoy holidays without a burden.

 Corporates and Japanese government strives to let their people take holidays because, more holidays equal so more spending outside which will in turn increase the outflow of money in the economy. Take holidays to boost the economy is the new motto for the government.