Heisei to Reiwa: A Golden Week to Remember

On Tuesday the 30th April history was made as the first Japanese Emperor in over 200 years abdicated from the throne. Emperor Akihito, who was enthroned in 1989, chose to step down and pass the responsibility to his son, who on 1st May was enthroned as Emperor Naruhito. The occasion was celebrated around Japan, as the abdication allowed that the new era was not beginning because of the death of the previous Emperor.

The Japanese Imperial Family is the oldest, continuous, hereditary monarchy in the World. Founded in 660BC, by Emperor Jimmu, the Yamato Dynasty has passed from father to son, or close male relative for more than 2,500 years.

One of the resulting consequences of the timing of the abdication and enthronement was and is that the Japanese people are enjoying (apparently only 55% of them) the longest sequential holiday in living memory. Golden Week is a holiday period in Japan where a number of public holidays run into each other, or fall very closely together. Legally, if there is a day between two public holidays during the week, this day automatically becomes a public holiday.  The usual holidays of Golden Week are:

  • April 29~Showa Day
  • May 3~Constitutional Memorial Day
  • May 4~Greenery Day
  • May 5~Children’s Day

This year several holidays have been added. So, Golden Week 2019 looks like this:

  • April 27~Extra Holiday~Start of Golden Week
  • April 29~Extra Holiday
  • April 29~Showa Day
  • April 30~Heisei Era ends. Emperor Akihito abdicates
  • May 1~Reiwa Era begins. Emperor Haruhito enthroned
  • May 2~Extra Holiday
  • May 3~Constitutional Memorial Day
  • May 4~Greenery Day
  • May 5~Children’s Day
  • May 6~Extra Holiday~End of Golden Week

These 10 days of holidays are unprecedented in living memory, and apparently, many people are not overly happy about having so much time off work at once. It is usual for Japanese companies to only allow people to take a maximum of a week at a time, and two weeks annual leave is the national standard amount of holidays.

This being the case, many Japanese people are taking the opportunity to travel abroad and, although always a busy time for internal travel within Japan, Golden Week has an extra layer of excitement and celebration this year. I imagine it is incredibly crowded all over the country, and although I would have enjoyed seeing the spectacle, I am glad we are going next month when things calm down a little. Are you in Japan enjoying, or not enjoying Golden Week??

Photo Credits: Feature Image from pimsleur.com, other photos from Wikipedia.

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