Public holidays in Japan
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Public holidays in Japan were established by the Public Holiday Law (国民の祝日に関する法律 Kokumin no Shukujitsu ni Kansuru Hōritsu ) of 1948 (as amended). A provision of the law establishes that when a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the next working day shall become a public holiday, known as furikae kyūjitsu (振替休日, lit. "transfer holiday"). Additionally, any day that falls between two other national holidays shall also become a holiday, known as kokumin no kyūjitsu (国民の休日, lit. "citizens' holiday"). May 4, sandwiched between Constitution Memorial Day on May 3 and Children's Day on May 5, was an annual example of such a holiday until it was replaced by Greenery Day in 2007.
Prior to Japan's adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1873, the dates of holidays were based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. As a result, New Year's Day, for example, was celebrated at the beginning of spring, as it is in modern China, Korea and Vietnam. Japan has 15 national, government-recognized holidays.
Table of Japanese holidays 
|New Year's Day (元日 Ganjitsu )||January 1||This national holiday was established in 1948, as a day to celebrate the new year. New Year's Day marks the beginning of Japan's most important holiday season, the New Year season (正月 Shōgatsu ), which generally refers to the first one, three or seven days of the year. Although not prescribed by law, many workplaces are closed from December 29 to January 3. Prior to 1948, New Year's Day was a national holiday on which the imperial worship ceremony known as Shihō-hai (四方拝) took place.|
|Coming of Age Day (成人の日 Seijin no Hi )||Second Monday of January||This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day to congratulate and encourage people who have reached the age of maturity (20) during the year. Cities and towns throughout the nation hold ceremonies for these people. Originally held on January 15, in 2000 it was changed to the second Monday of January in accordance with the Happy Monday System.|
|Foundation Day (建国記念の日 Kenkoku Kinen no Hi )||February 11||This national holiday was established in 1966 (and first held in 1967) as a day to reflect on the establishment of the nation and to nourish a love for the country. From 1872 to 1948, February 11 was known as Kigen-setsu (紀元節), a holiday commemorating the day on which—according to the Nihon Shoki—Emperor Jimmu is said to have acceded the throne in 660 BCE.|
|Vernal Equinox Day (春分の日 Shunbun no Hi )||Around March 20[Note 1]||This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day for the admiration of nature and the love of living things. Prior to 1948, the vernal equinox was an imperial ancestor worship festival called Shunki kōrei-sai (春季皇霊祭).|
|Shōwa Day (昭和の日 Shōwa no Hi )||April 29||This national holiday was established in 2007 as a day to reflect on the events of the Shōwa period. As the birthday of Hirohito, officially known as Emperor Shōwa, April 29 was originally celebrated as a holiday during his lifetime. (See "The Emperor's Birthday" below.) After the death of Hirohito in 1989, the date continued to be a holiday under the new name "Greenery Day". (See also below.) In 2007, Greenery Day was moved to May 4, and April 29 took the name "Shōwa Day" in honor of the late Emperor. Shōwa Day marks the start of the Golden Week holiday period.|
|Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日 Kenpō Kinenbi )||May 3||This national holiday was established in 1948, to commemorate the day on which Japan's postwar constitution took effect. Constitution Memorial Day falls during Golden Week.|
|Greenery Day (みどりの日 Midori no Hi )||May 4||This national holiday is celebrated as a day to commune with nature and be grateful for its blessings. Originally established in 1989 and held annually on April 29 (the late Shōwa Emperor's birthday), in 2007 Greenery Day was moved to May 4, and April 29 was renamed "Shōwa Day" (see above.) Greenery Day falls during Golden Week. (From 1986 to 2006, May 4 was a kokumin no kyūjitsu holiday.)|
|Children's Day (こどもの日 Kodomo no Hi )||May 5||This national holiday was established in 1948, as a day on which to esteem the personalities of children and plan for their happiness. It is on this day that the Japanese equivalent of the Dragon Boat Festival (端午の節句 Tango no Sekku ) is held. On this day, and for some time before it, families who have a boy in their home may fly koinobori and decorate their homes with armor or samurai dolls. Children's Day marks the end of Golden Week.|
|Marine Day (海の日 Umi no Hi )||Third Monday of July||This national holiday was established in 1995 (and first held in 1996) as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and for hoping for the prosperity of the maritime nation that is Japan. Originally held on July 20, in 2003 it was changed to the third Monday of July in accordance with the Happy Monday System|
|Respect-for-the-Aged Day (敬老の日 Keirō no Hi )||Third Monday of September||This national holiday was established in 1966 as a day to respect the elderly and celebrate long life. Originally held on September 15, it originated as a renaming of Old Folks' Day (老人の日 Rōjin no hi ). In 2003, it was changed to the third Monday of September in accordance with the Happy Monday System|
|Autumnal Equinox Day (秋分の日 Shūbun no Hi )||Around September 23[Note 2]||This national holiday was established in 1948 as a day on which to honor one's ancestors and remember the dead. Prior to 1948, the autumnal equinox was an imperial ancestor worship festival called Shūki kōrei-sai (秋季皇霊祭).|
|Health and Sports Day (体育の日 Taiiku no Hi )||Second Monday of October||This national holiday was established in 1966 as a day on which to enjoy sports and cultivate a healthy mind and body. Originally held on October 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, in 2000 it was changed to the second Monday of October in accordance with the Happy Monday System|
|Culture Day (文化の日 Bunka no Hi )||November 3||This national holiday was established in 1948. It commemorates the November 3, 1946 announcement of the Constitution. It is recognized as a day to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture. (Although prior to the establishment of this holiday in 1948, November 3 was also a national holiday called Meiji-setsu (明治節) commemorating the birthday of Emperor Meiji, the two holidays are ostensibly unrelated.)|
|Labour Thanksgiving Day (勤労感謝の日 Kinrō Kansha no Hi )||November 23||This national holiday was established in 1948 as an occasion for praising labor, celebrating production and giving one another thanks. Prior to the establishment of this holiday, November 23 was celebrated as an imperial harvest festival called Niiname-sai (新嘗祭).|
|The Emperor's Birthday (天皇誕生日 Tennō Tanjōbi )||December 23||The birthday of the reigning emperor has been a national holiday since 1868. Originally known as Tenchō-setsu (天長節), it was renamed Tennō tanjōbi (天皇誕生日) in 1948. It is currently celebrated on December 23; Emperor Akihito was born on this day in 1933. (Prior to the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989, this holiday was celebrated on April 29. See "Shōwa Day" above.)|
- The vernal equinox generally falls on March 20 or March 21. The exact date of the holiday is announced on the first weekday of February of the previous year. In 2010, the holiday falls on March 21.
- The autumnal equinox generally falls on September 22 or September 23. The exact date of the holiday is announced on the first weekday of February of the previous year. In 2010, the holiday falls on September 23.
Holidays in 2013 
|January 1||New Year's Day|
|January 14||Coming of Age Day|
|February 11||Foundation Day|
|March 20||Vernal Equinox Day|
|April 29||Shōwa Day|
|May 3||Constitution Memorial Day|
|May 4||Greenery Day|
|May 5 (Moves to May 6 as a furikae kyūjitsu)||Children's Day|
|July 15||Marine Day|
|September 16||Respect-for-the-Aged Day|
|September 23||Autumnal Equinox Day|
|October 14||Health and Sports Day|
|November 3||Culture Day|
|November 23||Labour Thanksgiving Day|
|December 23||The Emperor's Birthday|
Events of imperial mourning and celebration 
In addition to the annual holidays listed above, certain events of celebration or mourning related to the imperial family are also treated as national holidays in the year in which they occur.
There have been four instances of such holidays since the introduction of the Public Holiday Law.
- April 10, 1959: Marriage of Crown Prince Akihito
- February 24, 1989: State Funeral of the Shōwa Emperor
- November 12, 1990: Official Enthronement Ceremony of Emperor Akihito
- June 9, 1993: Marriage of Crown Prince Naruhito
Recent changes 
Beginning in 2000, Japan implemented the Happy Monday System, which moved a number of national holidays to Monday in order to obtain a long weekend:
- Coming-of-Age Day: January 15 → 2nd Monday of January, starting in 2000.
- Marine Day: July 20 → 3rd Monday of July, starting in 2003.
- Respect for the Aged Day: September 15 → 3rd Monday of September, starting in 2003.
- Health and Sports Day: October 10 → 2nd Monday of October, starting in 2000.
See also 
- Kōjien, 6th edition
- Nakamura, Akemi, "National holidays trace roots to China, ancients, harvests", Japan Times, 8 April 2008.