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Golden Week


Japan’s new fiscal year is not yet a month old, new company employees are in training, and many schools are not yet in their second week of classes. Time for a vacation! Bring on Golden Week!


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Japan’s new fiscal year is not yet a month old, new company employees are in training, and many schools are not yet in their second week of classes. Time for a vacation! Bring on Golden Week!


History

In 1948 Japan declared 9 official holidays in accordance with its Public Holidays Law. The clustering of three of those holidays, The Emperor’s Birthday (Tennotanjobi) on April 29th at the time, Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpokinenbi) on May 3rd, and Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi) on May 5th, in late April and early May coupled with the warm weather that arrives at that time of year led to a spike in the number of people engaging in leisure activities.


The 1951 film Jiyu Gakko recorded higher ticket sales during the Golden Week period than at any other time of the year, including the more culturally significant Obon and New Year’s periods. The managing director of the Daiei Film Company dubbed the period “Golden Week” in reference to radio’s “golden time,” or the time of day at which listener ratings are highest, and the name stuck.



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In 1985 an amendment to Japan’s Public Holidays Law established May 4th as the “National Day of Rest” (Kokumin no Kyujitsu) creating an uninterrupted holiday period to give people a vacation and boost the economy.


Emperor Hirohito’s death in 1989 saw April 29th changed first into Greenery Day (Midori no Hi) and then into Showa Day (Show no Hi) in 2007 when Greenery Day was shifted to May 4th.


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Greenery Day

Greenery Day is intended to honor Emperor Hirohito’s love of plants and nature, without actually referring to him or his era, and to encourage people to commune with nature and be thankful for its blessings and can be thought of as Japan’s equivalent of arbor day.


Many people used to plant trees in honor of Emperor Hirohito and his birthday during his rule and the Imperial family participates in a yearly tree planing ceremony on Greenery Day to the present day.


Showa Day, which replaced Greenery Day as the new April 29th holiday, was established to reflect upon the events and changes that took place during Emperor Hirohito’s reign, and Constitution Memorial Day, established after the promulgation of the post-War Constitution in 1947, encourages people to reflect upon the roles and importance of government in everyday life.


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Children’s Day

The last day of Golden Week, has the longest history of all the Golden Week holidays tracing its roots back to the Tango no Sekku (5th seasonal festival) which was introduced to Japan by China during the middle of the Asuka Period (538-710).


Before World War II it was also known as “Boys’ Day” and was a celebration of and prayer for the health and vitality of boys (a girls day known as the Hina Matsuri Festival happens on March 3rd of every year).


Though Children’s Day toned down the masculinity and added the health and happiness of girls and gratitude toward mothers to its tradition, the symbols of the original holiday are still with us. Families with sons display samurai dolls in helmets and armor (or just the helmet and armor sets), and koinobori carp streamers fly from flag poles across the nation.



The samurai dolls, armor and helmets and the koinobori all represent a family's prayers for the health, happiness and success of their sons.


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The gorgeous Children's Day Set shown above has been kindly loaned to us by


Golden Week

 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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