Experiencing Japan holidays is highly recommended and can be a lot of fun, but remember to plan well in advance. Hotels fill up fast, especially around New Year, Golden Week, and the Bon Festival.
Japan Holidays and Annual Events
New Year’s Day (Shogatsu) is a national holiday in Japan and one of the most celebrated throughout the year. It is a time to get together with family and visit shrines to pray for the new year. It is common to view the morning sunrise and eat special New Year foods called Osechi Ryori.
Unless you are visiting someone in Japan, there is not much for tourists to do at this time because many shops, tourist sites, and restaurants close from December 31 – January 3.
Coming of Age Day
Coming of Age Day (Seijin no hi) is a national holiday observed on the second Monday of January. Coming of age or becoming an adult historically happens at the age of 20, although the legal age of becoming an adult is 18 years old (from 2022).
This holiday is a day for 20-year-olds to dress up in beautiful kimonos and celebrate their new responsibilities.
According to the lunar calendar, February 3 or 4 is the last day of winter and the beginning of spring. Setsubun is not a national holiday, but observed nationwide. On this day, people go to temples and shrines and throw beans to drive away evil spirits. Often, men wear devil masks to make it fun for children.
National Foundation Day
February 11 is National Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinenbi), a national holiday. It is a day to honor the founding of Japan.
The Emperor’s Birthday (Tenno Tanjobi) is on February 23. It is a national holiday and a day to pray for the longevity of the Imperial Family.
March 3 is Dolls’ Festival (Hina Matsuri) or Girls’ Day. Families with girls celebrate by displaying dolls in their homes.
March 20 or 21 is a national holiday marking the Spring Equinox (Shunbun no hi). On this day, people go to temples and visit graves. The holiday also marks the beginning of spring break for school children.
Hanami or cherry blossom viewing is a national event held every year. Plum blossoms start in February, peach in March, and cherry in April.
Golden Week is one of the most traveled holidays in Japan. It is a stretch of four national holidays all in the same week from April 29-May 5. Many companies give their workers the entire week off to celebrate.
April 29: Showa Day (Showa no hi) is the birthday of the former Emperor Showa.
May 3: Constitution Day (Kenpo Kinenbi) commemorates the new constitution put into effect after World War II.
May 4: Greenery Day (Midori no hi) is a day to admire plants and nature.
May 5: Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi) or Boy’s Festival is a time for families with boys to celebrate by displaying warrior helmets in their homes and flying carp streamers.
Tanabata or the Star Festival is on July 7. It is not a national holiday, but celebrated as a festival. Children write their wishes on a piece of paper and hang it on designated bamboo branches.
Marine Day or Ocean Day (Umi no hi) is a national holiday that falls on the third Monday in July. It is a day to celebrate the abundance of the ocean. It also marks the beginning of summer vacation for school children.
Mountain Day (Yama no hi) on August 11 is a new national holiday that was introduced in 2016. It is a day to celebrate the mountains.
Obon is one of the three big holidays in Japan. At this time, many people return home to visit ancestral graves. Although it is not a national holiday, many companies give their employees a week off to celebrate. The actual holiday is observed August 13 to 15, but the days before and after are heavy travel days.
Respect for the Aged Day
Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no hi) is a national holiday that falls on the third Monday in September. It is a day to give respect to the elderly.
Autumn Equinox (Shubun no hi) is a national holiday celebrated on September 22 or 23. People go to temples and visit graves on this day.
Sports Day (Taiku no hi) is a national holiday that takes place on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, and is a day to promote health through the enjoyment of sports.
Photo by Incanus Japan / CC BY-NC-SA
Culture Day (Bunka no hi) is a national holiday celebrated on November 3 to promote cultural achievements in Japan.
Shichi-Go-San or Seven-Five-Three Festival is celebrated on November 15. It is a day that children of these ages are dressed up and taken to local shrines. Parents pray for their children’s health and good fortune.
Labor Thanksgiving Day
Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinro Kansha no hi) is on November 23. It is a national holiday to recognize the importance of work and labor.
Christmas is not a national holiday but you will see lots of decorations and beautiful lights, especially in Tokyo.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is not a national holiday but many shops, tourist sites, and restaurants typically close for the holidays. Although there are some New Year’s Eve parties in Tokyo, it is more common to visit a temple or shrine at midnight.
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!