Complete guide for holidays in Japan

There are 16 statutory public holidays per year in Japan. It is very important to know all of these holidays when you travel in Japan, as theme parks and large-scale commercial facilities are more crowded on the holidays and some places may be closed on weekends and holidays. Some holidays are related to the history and culture of Japan, so you may be able to see special sights which are related to specific holidays. In order to be able to enjoy your trip comfortably, please check the statutory public holidays in Japan when you make your travelling plan.

January 1: New Year’s Day

It is the day to celebrate the New Year. Many places close on this day, so if you are planning to visit Japan around this day, you really need to check in advance. In Japan, the first visit to pray at a temple/shrine is called “hatsumode.” Many temples and shrines are very crowded with hatsumode visitors from New Year’s Day through January 3. Especially at famous shrines, such as Ise Jingu, the roads around those places are congested and sometimes traffic controls may be in place. So, make sure to set a flexible schedule for travelling around this time.

The 2nd Monday in January: Coming-of-Age Day

It is the day to celebrate new adults. New adults refer to people who will turn 18 by the end of March in the year. In most of the municipalities in Japan, there will be an event called “Seijin-shiki” for new adults. Many women attend the ceremony in gorgeous furisode, kimono with long sleeves and some men wear a formal set of kimono, called haori-hakama, making a colorful and festive atmosphere at the venues.

February 11: National Foundation Day

We don’t know the exact day when Japan was actually founded, but the foundation day of Japan is the day when Emperor Jimmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, allegedly ascended the throne. The day of the accession according to the “Kojiki” (the oldest existing record of Japanese history) and “Nihon Shoki” (The Chronicles of Japan), is January 1, 660 BC on the lunar calendar, which translates to February 11 on the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, for the sake of expediency, this day was set to be the “day to celebrate the national foundation.”

February 23: The Emperor’s Birthday

It is the day to celebrate the birthday of the reigning Emperor. This holiday was established due to the accession of the current emperor in May, 2019. It was changed from December 23, which is the birthday of the Emperor Emeritus (Emperor Heisei). On this day, a general public congratulatory visit is held at the Imperial Palace with people gathering to celebrate the birthday of the emperor in person, so the surrounding area can be quite busy.

March 20 or 21: Spring Equinox Day

This day is legally prescribed as a “day to celebrate nature and cherish lives.” As Japan is located in the Northern hemisphere, the days get longer as summer is approaching. On the Spring Equinox Day, day and night are almost the same length. As the time shifts little by little due to the relative location of the sun and earth, the Spring Equinox Day cannot be a fixed day of the year and is either March 20 or 21, which is set by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan every year. The time around the Spring Equinox Day is called “higan,” when many people pay a visit to their ancestors’ graves.

April 29: Day of Showa

“Showa” is one of the era names of Japan, referring to the period of about 60 years from 1926 to 1989. This is the day to remember the Showa Era with its turbulence and dramatic change, such as the Pacific War and the following reconstruction. April 29 used to be widely recognized as the birthday of Emperor Showa. Depending on the calendar, the period from April 29 to early May is concentrated with weekends and holidays, creating a long holiday called “Golden Week.” You should know that during Golden Week, tourist sites and transportation facilities are really crowded and accommodation fees shoot up.

May 3: Constitution Day

It is the day to commemorate the coming into force of the Constitution of Japan. The current Constitution of Japan came into force on May 3, 1947.

May 4: Greenery Day

It is the day to get close to nature and appreciate its blessings. Some facilities, including parks and zoos, offer free admission on this day. Those places will be very crowded but you can enjoy sightseeing at less cost.

May 5: Children’s Day

It is the day to respect the individuality of children and wish for their healthy growth. It is also called “tango-no-sekku” (“Boys’ Day”). There is a traditional custom to set up koinobori, windsocks in the shape of carp that are a symbol of promotion, before and after this day. The view with colorful koinobori flying in the wind is a seasonal feature of May. There are also other customs related to this day, such as eating chimaki and kashiwamochi rice cake treats and putting shobu sweet flag leaves in the bathtub.

The 3rd Monday in July: Marine Day

It is the day to thank the sea for its blessings. This holiday was established to commemorate the arrival of the Emperor of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) at Yokohama Port in 1876 after his Tohoku tour. Summer is a perfect time to enjoy sea bathing in Japan, with many events, where you can enjoy the seaside or get on a boat, all over Japan.

August 11: Mountain Day

It is the day to thank the mountains for their blessings. As two-thirds of the land in Japan is coverded by forests, this holiday was established in 2014 as an attempt to make it an opportunity for people to get familiar with mountains. It is the newest statutory holiday. As this holiday has a short history, there are not many customary events yet. Some people start their “Bon Holidays” on this day.

Around August 13 through 16: Bon Holidays *

Bon Holidays are not formal statutory holidays; however, many companies and stores have customary holidays around this time as “Bon Holidays.” During the bon holiday period, the transportation facilities get crowded with people travelling and returning home. Bon is a custom based on the fusion of Japan’s ancient beliefs and Buddhism and is believed to be the time when the souls of the ancestors come back. Depending on the religious sects and communities, there are various customs, including building a small fire called “mukae-bi” in front of your house so that your ancestors won’t get lost and visiting graves. Some regional communities hold a “bon-odori” festival, where many people dance around a yagura tower temporarily built in an open space. Famous bon-odori festivals include Gujo Odori and Awa Odori dance festivals.

The 3rd Monday in September: Respect-for-the-Aged Day

It is the day to show respect for elderly people and celebrate their longevity. Some parks and facilities offer free admission to elderly people on this day. The age criteria for the elderly can be 60, 65, 70, and so on, depending on each facility.

September 22 or 23: Autumn Equinox Day

It is the day to show respect to ancestors and commemorate the deceased. The period around this day is called “higan,” when many people visit a grave to console the sprits of their ancestors. One of the seasonal features of this period is higan-bana, red spider lily flowers. The day when day and night are almost the same length as the days get shorter with winter approaching is set by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan every year, which would be either September 22 or September 23.


It is not a statutory holiday, but the facilities run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, such as parks and art museums, are open to the public for free on this day. Similarly, some prefectures set their own “Citizens Day,” and offer free admissions to some prefectural facilities and hold various events.

The 2nd Monday in October: Sports Day

It is the day to enjoy sports. Various sports-related events are held all over Japan, such as those with guest Olympians. Established for the commemoration of the Tokyo Olympics held in 1964, this holiday used to be called “Health and Sports Day” and was observed on October 10, the opening day of those Olympics. In 2000, the name was changed to “Sports Day” and the date was set to the 2nd Monday in October, as it is today.

November 3: Culture Day

This day is prescribed as a day to “love freedom and peace and promote culture.” It is the holiday for commemorating the promulgation of the Constitution of Japan on November 3, 1946. Many museums and art museums offer free admission. The Agency for Cultural Affairs holds the “National Arts Festival,” where you can enjoy various works of art, such as music, theatrical plays, and fine arts. The venue of the festival moves through the prefectures, and it will be held for about one month in Ishikawa Prefecture in 2023.

November 23: Labor Thanksgiving Day

It is the day to show gratitude for labor and celebrate the production of the year. It derives from the traditional ritual called “Niname-sai,” in which the emperor offers a gift rice to the deities in thanks for the successful harvest of that year and prays for a fruitful new year.

Around December 28 through January 3: Year End and New-Year Holidays *

Depending on the calendar, many companies and stores close during the week around New Year’s Day. Some of the stores and facilities, which are closed during this holiday, put out special New Year decorations, such as kadomatsu and shimenawa, in front of their places even before New Year’s Day. These special decorations create a festive sight unique to this time of year. As many people return home to stay with their family and relatives around New Year’s Day, the means of transportation, such as shinkansen and airplanes, will be really crowded.

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The information herein is as of July 2023
My hobby is to find delicious dishes and recreate them at home. When I am on a shopping hunt for kitchen tools at Kappabashi Kitchenware Town, the time goes by so quickly. I also like football, so I cook while watching a live J-league game on weekends when I stay home. It is my routine to search for good-looking foreign football players. I am from Nagoya.

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