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Japan: 16th National Holiday Added

(July 15, 2014) Japan’s National Holiday Act was amended on May 30, 2014. (Act No. 43 of 2014; text of the current Act & the amendment, effective in 2016 [both in Japanese], available at E-GOV.GO.JP.) The amendment designates August 11 as “Mountain Day.” “Sea Day,” the third Monday of July, is already a national holiday. Mountain climbers and hikers’ clubs pushed for the new legislation. (Masafumi Ueda, If Sea Day Exists … “Mountain Day” Holiday on August 11 Will Be Proposed in the Diet [in Japanese], ASAHI NEWSPAPER (Nov. 22, 2013).)

Not everyone welcomed the addition of a national holiday. Among developed countries, Japan already has more national holidays than others, with 15 such days. The United Kingdom, for example, has only eight national holidays, and the United States has ten. (UK Has Lowest Number of Public Holidays Within G20, ON REC (Mar. 3, 2014).)

There are de facto holidays in Japan, too. In addition to the Japanese national holiday, New Year’s Day (January 1), most businesses are closed on January 2 and 3. There are other customary closings of business around August 15. On the other hand, workers are now not using about half of their annual leave. On average, they take only eight to nine days of annual leave. (2013 Summary of Comprehensive Work Condition Research, 1, (4) Annual Leave [in Japanese], Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website (2013).)

Some commentators are of the view that Japan does not need more holidays, but rather a change in the business culture that makes it difficult for workers to take annual leave, noting that people in other developed countries take more annual leave and take long-term leave. (Tomoyuki Isoyama, Government Decided Too Many Holidays, Not Effective Japanese “Way to Take Vacations” [in Japanese], WEDGE (Oct. 9, 2012).) Others point out that, on national holidays, transportation is crowded, leisure spots are packed, and holiday prices may be charged; therefore the taking of national holidays is of less benefit to people who want to enjoy work-free days than taking annual leave days at a variety of times would be. (Shinobu Naito, Addition of “Mountain Day” to National Holidays Makes Japanese Poorer [in Japanese], BLOGOS (Apr. 26, 2014, 8:09 am).)