Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Japan, which already has a “Golden Week” holiday period in spring, is currently in the midst of a new five-day holiday run, dubbed “Silver Week”, including its “Respect for the Aged” and autumnal equinox holidays.
September, formerly a month with single national holidays in different weeks, now has them linked, largely thanks to a “Happy Monday” law passed in 2000 that rolls over any national holidays on a Sunday and makes holidays of any days in between such breaks.
Indeed, despite its image as a Spartan, never-take-vacation society, the relaxing truth is Japan has at least 15 national holidays and potentially more depending on the day of the week the holiday falls. While none of these are in the month when many Japanese actually do take vacation — August – it works out for even the hardest working salary-man or -woman to at least three weeks to more than a month off a year.
This may not make European unions envious yet, but compared to the United States with 10 public holidays and a few following days off, it’s a substantial commitment by the state to leisure, and arguably a lucrative pump-priming for the domestic and international travel industry until this year.
Not surprisingly, though, with the global economic crisis, Japanese have been traveling abroad less frequently, with total outbound passengers down almost 9 percent as of the end of June, and many staying in-country to take advantage of reduced highway tolls or remaining at home altogether.
Some reports suggest that many people were bypassing “Golden Week” or peak summer travel rates with an eye on still-tame September fares for the inaugural ”Silver” holiday. Anecdotally, colleagues who tried to book late for overseas beach destinations found tickets unavailable, while even some domestic locations within driving distance of major cities were reportedly packed.
They may call it “Happy Monday”, but, yes, Tuesday’s a bit sad, as the Japanese holiday alignment that created the five-day recreation in 2009 won’t offer as many holidays in a row again for six years. But a silver lining may come with the new government, which could see the economic efficacy of vacationing as a way to battle recession, tweaking future calendars and establishing a policy beachhead simultaneously pro- and anti-labour.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (Tokyo beach), Kimimasa Mayama (crowded pool)