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Japanese Golden Week—a time for commemoration and celebration - April 2011 Newsletter


Every year in Japan, school children and working adults alike look forward to the first week of May, also known as the Japanese golden week.  From April 29th  to May 5th, adults and children alike kick back and relax in a week-long break from study and work.  It is during this period that the people in Japan get a long and well deserved holiday from work and school.  For many in the working world, the Japanese golden week is the longest consecutive vacation and holiday period, and many use the time to rest, relax, and travel. 

Historically, the Japanese golden week was the result of the 1948 law on national holiday that declared nine official holidays.  Four of these holidays fall on the same week and hence the Japanese golden week soon became a time known when Japanese have fun and enjoy themselves.  The entertainment, travel, and leisure industry look forward to this time of year, as the long holiday usually means an increase in these industries’ revenues, much like the holiday season in the West. 

These four official holidays that make up the Japanese Golden Week include:
Showa day (Showa no hi) - April 29th
Constitution memorial day (kenpo kinenbi) - May 3rd
Greenery day (midori no hi) - May 4th
Children’s day (kodomo no hi) - May 5th

For all the excitement that the Japanese golden week brings with it, there is also a downside.  Because of these national holidays that make up the golden week, many Japanese offices close from a week to ten days depending on the calendar.  Many services are closed during this time.  Travelers to Japan are also advised to visit Japan before or after the golden week, because it is a time when Japanese locals are out and about traveling both locally and abroad making the purchase of tickets and reservations in Japan nearly impossible.

Showa Day

Held on April 29th every year, Showa day commemorates the reign of emperor Hirohito, also known as emperor Showa, who reigned from 1926 to 1989.  Originally, Showa day was meant to be a celebration of the late emperor Hirohito’s birthday that falls on the 29th of April, but after his death in 1989, the holiday was changed to commemorate the 63 years of his reign and the turbulent history that Japan went through throughout those 63 years.  Instead of it being a glorification of the person of the emperor Hirohito, Showa day today is a way of reflecting on the Showa era that included the rise of fascism, the second world war, the post-war occupation by the U.S, and the rebuilding of the country in post war years.

The imperial palace and the government of Japan encourage the people of Japan to collectively reflect on the history, current situation, and future of Japan during this holiday.  Those who have lost their lives during the Second World War are also remembered during this holiday, just as the efforts spent in rebuilding the economy and society of Japan after the second World War are reflected upon. 

Constitution Memorial Day

Every year on May 3rd, Japan celebrates constitution memorial day—a day that celebrates the 1947 Constitution of Japan that states the law in Japan and was enacted on May 3rd, 1947 as a constitution for post war Japan.

In celebration of constitution memorial day, thousands of lectures are conducted all over the country on the role the constitution has played in the country.  It is also the only day in the year when the National Diet House is open to the public.  It is a day when the meaning of in Japan and the government is reflected upon. 

Greenery Day

Originally celebrated on April 29th, greenery day was moved to the fourth of May in 2007 when it was ruled that emperor Hirohito’s birthday will be celebrated as Showa day. Greenery day originally stemmed from the celebration of emperor Hirohito’s birthday after his passing because of his great love of nature.  However, in 2007, the Japanese government decided to retain emperor Hirohito’s birthday as a day of commemorating the showa era of Japan in Showa day and greenery day was then moved to May 4th. 

Greenery day is celebrated by various green activities.  From planting trees to cleaning up, Japanese celebrate the beauty and abundance of nature through various activities that allow them to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature around them.

Celebrations also include festive parades with elaborate and beautiful floats and paper lanterns.  You will also find people in graceful traditional costumes amidst fireworks and fun. 

Children’s Day

On May 5th every year, children all over Japan rejoice in the holiday that is set aside for the recognition of the individual personalities and happiness of children.  It is also on this day that mothers are honored.
This holiday originated from the lunar calendar when the fifth day of the fifth lunar month is celebrated as a time of purification.   It is not known when this holiday began, but it was speculated to have began during the reign of empress Suiko.

It was originally called boys’ day, but was ruled by the government in 1948 as a day to celebrate the joy of all children regardless of their gender. 

In celebration of this holiday, families raise carp shaped flags and banners high in the sky.  When the wind blows through these carp flags and banners, the carps look like they are swimming upstream, reminiscent of an old ancient Chinese legend that states that carps turn into dragons when they swim upstream.

One flag is displayed for each child in the family. Families also display a model of Kintaro, also known as golden boy, who is a famous Japanese folk hero.  A boy of extraordinary strength, Kintaro eventually grew up to become a great warrior.  This doll display is an expression of the family’s wish that their children will grow up to be brave and strong.

Mochis—delicious rice cake snacks that are made of sticky rice with sweet fillings— and chimaki—sweet rice paste wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaves—are also served during this holiday. 

Commemoration and Celebration

The Japanese golden week with its string of holidays is more than just a time of rest and relax for the Japanese people, it also celebrates various aspects of the heritage and culture of Japan.  It commemorates the past in the history of the country, it commemorates the political ideals that the country is founded on, it celebrates the bounty of nature, upon which the nation is built, and it celebrates its future in the nation’s children.  It is a time of reflection, even as it is a time of fun and celebration.

At Mrs Lin’s Kitchen, we join in the commemoration and celebration of the Golden week.  Go green in your kitchen and learn to cook sustainably by cooking with what’s in season in our cookbook selections. Celebrate children’s day with our adorable boys day kintaro and carp chopsticks rest. Or throw a garden party and raise colorful paper lanterns to rival the beauty of the moon and perhaps set off some fireworks.

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