Public Holidays in Japan 2020

By Meridian and Kiru | Updated September 10, 2020


Public Holidays in Japan 2020

We'd be remiss if we didn't provide an ultimate guide to Japanese holidays for you. Japan enjoys numerous holidays throughout the year, and some of them could even be paid vacation days for you!

Looking for some cultural and international parties to join? Check out our BFF Tokyo Events Page for more information!

Here's a list of Japan's Public Holidays in 2020.

01/01/2020 Japanese New Year
01/13/2020 Coming of Age Day
02/11/2020 National Foundation Year
02/24/2020 Emperor Birthday
03/20/2020 Vernal Equinox Day
04/29/2020 Showa Day
05/03/2020 Constitution Memorial Day
05/04/2020 Greenery Day
05/05/2020 Childrens Day
07/23/2020 Marine Day
07/24/2020 Health and Sports Day
08/11/2020 Mountain Day
09/21/2020 Respect for the Aged Day
09/22/2020 Autumn Equinox Day
11/03/2020 Culture Day
11/23/2020 Labor Thanksgiving Day

The Story Behind the Holidays

Have you ever been interested in why Japan has so many national holidays? We would like to share with you the story behind each of the national holidays in Japan.

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    National Winter Holidays

    There are four public holidays between December 1 and February 28. These are usually regarded as winter holidays.

    Japanese New Year - January 1-3 2020

    The New Year in Japan is a fresh start for the entire country, people are encouraged to leave regrets and bad blood in the previous year.

    At the stroke of midnight Buddist temples all over Japan ring a bell 108 times. This number is believed to be the number of human desires that lead to pain and suffering. This ritual is done to keep that pain from entering the New Year. Other traditions include O-sechi Ryori a traditional new years feast, Nenga which are New Years' postcards as well as visiting shrines and temples.

    When Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, Japanese New Year or Oshogatsu started being celebrated on January 1 and ending on January 3. Prior to 1873, the start of the New Year depended on the cycle of the moon.

    Coming of Age Day - January 13 2020

    Coming of Age Day is when people who are 20 years old, become adults in Japan. On this day, the women wear traditional kimonos while the men wear a suit and a tie. Each city has an event with photographers who will be waiting for them at the main city office for the coming of age ceremony.

    Coming of Age Day can be traced all the way back to Japan's Asuka Period (538-710). However, the modern Coming of Age day was established after the Second World War. With the damage the war had taken on Japan morale was drastically low throughout the entire country. Trying to boose people's spirits, the leader of Warabi’s Youth Association held a youth festival on a school lawn in 1946. 

    National Foundation Day - February 11 2020

    Depending on where you are you may find parades that you can join in! For instance, if you go to Omotesando Dori you will be able to see people carrying Meiji Jingu Shrines. Back at the Imperial Palace, there are people from all over Japan, maybe even the world, visiting to show their respect for Emperor Jimmu.

    National Foundation Day is celebrated to remember the accession of Emporer Jimmu, the first Japanese Emporer, to the throne in 600 B.C.E. It was established in 1872 and given the name,  Kigensetsu (Empire Day). The public holiday was intended to legitimize the rule of the Imperial family after Tokugawa Shogunate, the last feudal Japanese military government.

    Emperors Birthday - February 24 2020

    Celebrate the Emperor's Birthday on the 24th of February by visiting the Imperial palace to see the Emperor! The day is celebrated by waving Japanese flags to the Emperor and waving hello.

    Celebrations for the birthday of Japanese emperors date all the way back to Ancient Japan. These celebrations are held to honor the Emperor as a person and Imperial ruler.


    National Spring Holidays

    There are 5 public holidays between March 1 and May 31. These months are generally regarded as the spring season.

    Vernal Equinox - March 20 2020

    Vernal Equinox Day is the celebration of the when days and nights become the same length. People observe the transformation of the seasons. and During this holiday, families get together and make up for lost time with each other. Another tradition is to visit the graves of friends and families and wash them by hand. After memorial services for departed love ones are offered botomachi (sweet red bean paste covered dumplings) as a way to honor them.

    Showa Day- April 29 2020

    Showa day is celebrated to encourage reflection on the Showa Era which is considered to be a very intense time in Japanese History. The philosophy of this holiday is that by thinking about yesterday, people will learn for tomorrow. As part of Japanese tradition, people visit Hirohito’s tomb in Hachiōji during the holiday. Hirohito was Emporer during the Showa Era.

    During the Showa Era Japan witnessed devastation, through the Second Sino-Japanese War, WWII, several attempted coup d’états, their first foreign occupation in history, and the “Japanese economic miracle.” All of this during Emperor Hirohito’s 63-year reign. 

    Constitution Memorial Day - May 3 2020

    Constitution Memorial Day is celebrated in remembrance of the Constitution of Japan coming into effect on May 3, 1947. The constitution declared that the sovereignty belongs to the people and the Emporer is a symbol of the people and no longer has powers related to the government. Thousands of people attend lectures all over the country to learn about the role the Constitution has played for the last 50 years.


    Greenery Day - May 4 2020

    Greenery Day falls in Golden Week which is when the weather in Japan tends to start warming people take this opportunity to visit relatives. Traditions can be enjoyed by those who want to participate, to honor nature, but there's np required tradition to follow. People gather from across the country to plant trees, have colorful parades through cities, and decorate the streets with paper lanterns. Tokyo Tower is illuminated to celebrate the vibrancy of nature!

    In 1989, after the ascension of Emperor Akihito to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the name of the holiday was changed from "Birthday of the Emperor" to "Greenery Day".The holiday got its new name to acknowledge the controversial wartime emperor's love for plants without mentioning his name.

    Childrens Day - May 5 2020

    Kodomo no hi is well known for the unique traditions associated with the holiday. The most famous decoration associated with Kodomo no hi is the colorful carp streamers hung up outside buildings and houses. Koinobori, are flown to bring luck and good fortune to the children inside. Koi fish, or Carp, are believed to be strong, spirited fish and are admired for their determination as they swim upstream and through powerful waterfalls. Koinobori symbolizes the desire for children to become brave and strong individuals. There are dozens more super cool children's day traditions, like Kushi Dango, setting warrior dolls called Kabuto and may dolls called Gogatsu Ningyo.

    Children's Day was originally known as Tango no Sekku and was a celebration just for boys. The holiday was changed in 1948 to celebrate the health and growth of both girls and boys.

    National Summer Holidays

    There are 2 public holidays June 1 and August 31. These months are usually regarded as the summer season. 

    Marine Day - July 20 2020

    Marine Day comes after right after Japan's rainy season. You'll catch most locals at the beach kicking back and enjoying the day off. Umi festivals (ocean festivals) are held all across the country. The Marine Day lantern festival held in Odaiba has a beautiful display of lanterns on the beach from there you can see the rainbow bridge and the lit yakatabune (house-boats) in the bay. 

    Marine Day is celebrated on the third Monday in July. Also known as 'Umi no hi', it became a nationally recognized holiday in Japan in 1996. In 2003, it was moved to be on the third Monday of July to create a long weekend. Marine Memorial Day was established in 1941 to mark the anniversary of the 1876 return of the Meiji Emperor to the Port of Yokohama from a tour of the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions. The holiday is also a day to express gratitude for the gifts from the sea, honor its importance, and pray for the prosperity of Japan since it's an island nation.

    Mountain Day - August 11 2020

    Mountain Day is a very new holiday in Japan, there're no official traditions for the holiday. Most people spend the holiday relaxing at home. 

    Mountain Day was announced in May 2014 and would be celebrated every August on the 11th, starting in 2016. Supporters of the holiday included legislator Seishiro Eto and the Japanese Alpine Club. It used an “opportunity to get familiar with mountains and appreciate the blessings from mountains. Although, it's a running joke in Japan that it's just an extra day off for salarymen.

    If you are a nature lover and are looking for endless opportunities for the outdoor experience that Japan has to offer, go check out our Ultimate Guide to Hiking in Tokyo and Ultimate Guide to Camping in Tokyo!

    Public Holidays - Health and Sports Day

    National Autumn Holiday

    There are 5 public holidays between September 1 and December 22. These months are generally regarded as the Autumn Season.

    Respect for the Aged Day

    In Japan, Respect for the Aged day focuses on the older members of the community. Many families visit their grandparents or parents and speak with them and learn life lessons. On this day, many places do special age day celebrations by giving special treatment to the elderly. Volunteers help out by providing free bento boxes to the elderly, and children hosts skits and shows at local theatres. The holiday is a day to thank and appreciate the older members of the community.

    Respect for the Aged Day started as a local custom at a village in Hyogo Prefecture and later became a nationwide celebration. It's dedicated to Japanese elders and their contributions to society. It became a national holiday in 1966 and is still celebrated to this day. Elders in Japan who've made it to triple digits in the 12 months prior to the holiday will receive a silver-plated sake cup. 

    Autumn Equinox - September 22 2020

    The Autumn Equinox marks the changing seasons, the days become shorter after the sun crosses to the other side of the Southern hemisphere from the Northern Hemisphere. Equinoxes are a special time for Buddhists that view equinoxes as times when the border between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its weakest, making the equinoxes important days to honour ancestors and remember the dead. It's a day to pay respects to deceased family members, visit family graves and hold family reunions in honor of those who have passed.

    Health and Sports Day - October 12 2020

    Health and Sports Day is celebrated to promote health and wellness. Schools and companies host field days complete with miniature Olympic games, complete with a torch-carrying ceremony. Non-traditional Olympic sports like tug-of-war, human pyramids, and obstacle courses are fan favorites.

    Health and Sports Day was first held on the 10th of October 1966 to commemorate the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games. The event is held in October to avoid Japan's rainy season. Eventually, in the year 2000, the holiday was moved to the second Monday in October to meet Japan’s Happy Monday System a law designed to create 3-day weekends.

    Culture Day - November 3 2020

    Culture day is all about embracing Japanese culture. There is also a Culture Awards Ceremony which takes place at the Imperial Palace where awards are given to people that have contributed to Japanese culture. The day is usually spent looking at art, listening to speeches, and various other festivities promoting Japan's culture.

    Culture Day was established as a holiday in 1868 on the birthday of the Meiji Emporer. After his death in 1912, it ceased to be a holiday until 1927 when it was rebranded, Meiji Setsu in honor of the late Meiji Emperor.

    Labour Thanksgiving Day - November 23 2020

    Labour Thanksgiving Day is spent thanking and recognizing people for their hard work. Kids might make little drawings for police officers, firefighters, hospital staff, and all other types of public servants to show appreciation for their contributions to the country. Companies review their accomplishments and congratulate their workers for their dedication and hard work.

    This holiday celebrates the institution of fundamental human rights, expanded rights of workers, recognizing hard work and giving thanks to the dedicated workers. With Japan's work ethic, this holiday is well deserved.

    Labor Thanksgiving can be traced back to a harvest festival that occurred as early as 660BC. Traditionally, the hard work of the farmers would be celebrated, and the success of the harvest would be dedicated to the gods by the Emperor. The modern holiday was established in 1948 after Japan's post-War constitution was established. 

    Happy Holidays from BFFTokyo!

    If you're in Japan for any of these holidays, or you're celebrating from around the world, we hope you have an amazing time. Cheers!

    Looking for some cultural and international parties to join? Check out our BFF Tokyo Events Page for more information! We also provide other helpful tips in our Life in Tokyo series guide to make your life in Japan easier and full of fun!

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