Monday, January 18, 2010

Holidaze: Overview

Holidays are a universal pleasure. People join together in cultural traditions, or simply lazily enjoy a day of repreive from working the cash register at Wal-Mart. In fact, some customs or traditions are so important that even the US government sets aside special federal holidays to observe them. Japan, is no different. Though one receives a bird's eye view into the culture and nature of a country by examining its holidays.

While America allots 10 federal holidays each year, Japan awards its citizens with 15 (not including bank holidays). While it may seem that Japan has taken a more laisez-faire approach to work; it's simply the opposite. Either for that post Super Bowl hangover, or a family vacation to Disney World, Americans utilize each and every one of their vacation days. Though the Japanese are less prone to taking advantage of their ねんきゅ (nenkyu / official vacation days). Therefore, federal holidays are a blessing and award the Japanese with a guilt-free day of relaxation or travel. Interestingly, Japan even blocks together groups of holidays in order to promote extended vacations. For example, early May is 'Golden Week' with three consecutive holidays (Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children's Day). In addition, any day that falls between two holidays is called こくみんのきゅうじつ (kokumin no kyūjitsu / citizen's day) and becomes a holiday. This occured recently in September of 2009, with 'Silver Week' where the Japanese enjoyed three consecutive holidays.

Born and raised American, each year I look forward to several cultural celebrations including Halloween, St. Patricks Day, and Easter. Though outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas, American federal holidays seldom coincide with these celebrations. The same is true with Japan, as they to have several celebrations coinciding with Chinese, shinto, buddhist tradition, or American-infusions such as Valentines Day.

Though the personalities of each country shine through looking the nature of the holidays. America, a relatively young nation, allots most of of their days to respecting or preserving historical dates and figures. For example, Columbus Day, Washington's birthday and Martin Luther King Jr. Day are set aside to observe and respect instrumental figures in American history. In a sense, American holidays seem dull and dry and fail to recognize the true culture of modern society.

Japan also pays homage to its history with National Foundation Day, Shōwa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, and the Emperor's Birthday. Although several days are used to respect one another and to connect with nature. For example, Coming of Age Day, Children's Day, and Respect for the Aged Day are not 'Hallmark' holidays but rather a special time to spend time with or commemorate groups of people. Other days such as the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox, Sea Day, Greenery Day, Sports Day show Japan's oneness with nature.

I can't help but give Japan the win when it comes to holidays. While I agree that individuals such as Columbus, Washington, and King Jr. are worthy of praise, I'd rather sick with monuments or 'unofficial' observances. A country that prides itself on diversity doesn't even have a holiday devoted to culture, unlike Japan a country notorious for its homogenous population.


New Year's Day

Seijin no hi
Coming of Age Day

Kenkoku kinenbi
National Foundation Day

Shunbun no hi
Spring Equinox

Shōwa no hi
Shōwa Day

Kenpou kinenbi
Constitution Memorial Day

Midori no hi
Greenery Day

Kodomo no hi
Children's Day

Umi no Hi
Sea Day

Keirou no hi
Respect for the Aged Day

Shuubun no hi
Autumn Equinox

Taiiku no hi
Sports Day

Bunka no hi
Culture Day

Kinrou kansha no hi
Labor Thanksgiving Day

Tennou tanjoubi
Emperor's Birthday



1 comment:

Lisa said...

Two thumbs up and a snap.