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Taking time off in Japanese companies

April calendar

Japan has a reputation for being a culture of workaholics, but there are of course many allowances for taking time off. Paid time off is given to employees, and companies encourage their employees to use their vacation days.
A common grievance, however, is that while it is not difficult to take a day off every now and then, there are few occasions to take extended vacations. Japan has three times during the year in which long vacations are possible:

Year-end/New year holidays
The New Year is the most important holiday in Japan; many companies provide a few days off before and after the new year. Some people will travel overseas, but many simply ring in the new year at home with their families.

Golden Week
Golden Week, starting 29 April, is the longest vacation period of the year for many Japanese workers. The name comes from the fact that there is a string of holidays throughout the week; some of these are official holidays, while some are ‘compensation holidays’. In 2018, there are five public holidays during Golden Week. During this time, many companies close or employees take time off in order to enjoy the extended vacation time to rest or travel.

Obon holiday
The Obon Festival is an annual holiday with Buddhist roots during which people commemorate their ancestors. It starts 15 August, and many companies will offer time off around this period (generally four days, 13 August to 16 August). Many people travel to their hometowns or to wherever their ancestors are buried to take care of the graves and visit, but others take the opportunity of the long vacation to travel elsewhere.

There are numerous other official holidays scattered throughout the year which allow for three or four-day weekends. The subject of these holidays range from traditional ones, such as ‘Coming-of-Age Day’ in January (detailed in a previous post), to days such as ‘Ocean Day’ in July.

The majority of long-term vacation for most people occurs during the above times, which leads to major traffic congestion as people travel en masse. For the time being, it seems as though this style of holiday-taking is unlikely to change. That being said, long vacations are truly a boon to those who toil throughout the year, and it is important to rest and relax properly. As Golden Week approaches, many at e-Jan are also preparing their travel plans.
How are you, dear reader, planning to spend your Golden Week?

-N.M. (United States, living in Japan for 3 years)