Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Silver linings

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ECONOMY JAPAN SUMMER

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.

A pang of guilt at the pottery fair

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Spare a thought for Japan’s foreign clay throwers.

The plunging economic tide has exposed some interesting characters here, like Graham McAlister, who came from Australia in 1983 to study pottery and never moved back. I met him at the Himatsuri Festival, a huge pottery bazarre-cum-folk festival held over the Golden Week holidays in the town of Kasama, where craftsmen and women have been throwing the soft local clay since the 18th century.

“It’s been a bit rough this year,” said Graham. “There’s still loads of people turning up, but not many are buying.”

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