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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #148: July 17, 2003

Japan lawmakers debate holiday to honor Showa

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan lawmakers debate holiday to honor Showa"
(AFP) Taiwan News


The Lower House Cabinet Committee of the parliament passed a bill to rename a couple of national holidays. No change in the dates or the number of holidays is implied, which may be the reason for the generally insignificant treatment by the media.

There are currently 14 national holidays listed in the Holiday Law. It also stipulates that a day falling in between two holidays will be treated as a holiday, effectively making May 4, which falls between May 3, Constitution Day and May 5, Children's Day, a holiday, usually dubbed simply as a 'national holiday'. The law also lets a holiday to be forwarded, so when a holiday falls on Sunday, the following Monday is a day off.

On top of the 15 legal holidays, there are customary ones. Offices and factories are closed for the last few days of a year which continues on to the first few days of the following year, traditionally intended to facilitate a family reunion for the New Years. A significant portion of the industry, especially the manufacturing sector, closes down in mid-August, too.

This may give the impression that Japan has lots of holidays, which may be so compared to about ten days at most for many industrialized countries, a fact sometimes employed to explain the falling productivity rate of Japanese industries. But it must be noted that while officers and workers in many developed countries take two to five or more weeks of vacation annually, Japanese workers are usually limited to just one week, plus a day or two here and there to take care of family chores and sick days.

When Emperor Showa (Hirohito being the personal name) passed away in 1989, it was considered whether to keep the Emperor's Birthday, April 29, as a holiday in one way or another. Birthday of the preceding Emperor Taisho, which was August 31, ceased to be a holiday upon the emperor's death, while that of Emperor Meiji still remains to be a holiday today, on November 3, as the 'Culture Day', whatever it means.

One consideration was that the day, April 29, marked the beginning of so-called 'golden-week' leading a succession of holidays on May 3, 4, and 5. There was not much argument, therefore, to leave the day as a holiday, for people to enjoy the pleasant season, so as to induce consumer spending.

In order to coax extremists among other reasons, the name of the day was set as 'Greenery Day', of which, as was intended, no one knows the real meaning.

The bill to change the name of the day is not new. The idea to name it 'Showa' has been floating around since day one. Three years ago, a bill was proposed that went through the Upper House first, and it seemed certain of Lower House passage backed by the ruling party. But the Prime Minister Mori at the time blew it by a political gaffe, saying, "Japan is a divine nation." (It might take a little digging into to find out what is wrong with this statement. It may have some similarity with the recent argument on "one nation under God" pledge in American schools, or the expression of "God bless our country" in US Presidential speeches.)

An interesting change from three years ago is that Japan Democratic Party (Minshu-to) which strongly opposed the bill three years ago supports the bill this year despite the content being almost exactly the same. Accordingly, those who are against the bill are limited to Social Democratic Party (Shamin-to), Communist Party (Kyosan-to), and some persistent media.

There is not enough time technically left in the current session for the Upper House to pass the bill. But it is expected to be voted in and will pass the fall session by the end of the year, in which case it is expected to be in force starting from 2005, which would provide a year's leeway for Calendar manufacturers to make adjustments.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications