List of Japanese Holidays and Celebrations
There are many holidays and festivals celebrated in the "Land of the Rising Sun" both some that are considered traditional in places around the world and some that are unique to Japan.
Shogatsu (New Year) - January 1
New Year's Day or "Shogatsu" is considered the most important national holiday in Japan and many businesses do not reopen after celebrating it until January 4.
Seijin No Hi (Coming of Age) - Second Monday of January
Every year, on the second Monday of January, Japanese people celebrate the coming of age of those men and women who have turned 20 since the previous year.
Setsubun (Beginning of Spring) - February 3
Though Setsuban is not a national holiday, it is a celebration that takes place at many shrines and temples throughout Japan.
Kenkoku Kinenbi (National Foundation Day) - February 11
Japanese celebrate Kenkoku Kinenbi on February 11. This national holiday celebrates the anniversary of the day when the first emperor was crowned in 660 BC.
Valentine's Day - February 14
Though this holiday is not native to Japan and is not considered a national holiday, many Japanese women celebrate it by giving chocolates to men. This is unique to Japan as many countries celebrate in the opposite way (men giving chocolate or flowers to women) or both men and women give gifts.
Traditionally, it was looked-down upon for a Japanese woman to confess her love for a man, so many women refused to let the man know, not allowing themselves to fully fulfill their love. Now, women are given a day to express their love without shame. Many women even continue to give chocolates to men they are dating or to whom they are married.
It is also acceptable for women to give chocolates to other friends, co-workers and classmates, even if there is no romantic feelings involved.
Hina Matsuri (Doll's Festival) - March 3
Hina Matsuri is celebrated every year by decorating your house with dolls. It is also known as the "girl's festival."
White Day - March 14
White day is celebrated as the opposite of Valentine's Day in Japan (the only country who celebrates "White Day", where men take chocolates to women. It is exactly one month after Valentines Day and gives the men a chance to return chocolates or other gifts to the women who gave them chocolates on Valentines Day. It is also a custom that the man's gift to the woman is either three times the amount or three times the value of the woman's gift was on Valentines Day.
Shunbun No Hi (Spring Eqinox Day) - Around March 20
During the week of the spring equinox (ohigan), Japanese visit graves of their ancestors to celebrate shunbun no hi.
Showa No HI (Showa Day) - April 29
Showa Day is the first days of the "Golden Week" celebrated in Japan. It is the birthday of the former Emperor Showa. Before 2007 - this day was also known as "Greenery Day", but now that day has been moved to the first week of May.
Kenpo Kinenbi (Constitution Day) - May 3
Kenpo Kinenbi is a national holiday that was put into effect after WWII. The holiday was created to remember the new constitution. It is also part of the "Golden Week".
Midori No Hi (Greenery Day) - May 4
Originally celebrated on Emperor Showa's birthday because of his love of nature and plants. In 2007, Greenery was moved to May 4 and is now a later day in the "Golden Week."
Kodomo No Hi (Children's Day) - May 5
As the last holiday of the "Golden Week", kodomo no hi is celebrated as a children's day. In the past, kodomo no hi was celebrated exclusively as a "boy's day" (just as hina matsuri was celebrated as a "girl's day"), but now the day is used to celebrate both girls and boys.
The Japanese celebrate this day with flying carp-shaped streamers. This is based on an old Chinese legend that tells the story of a carp that swam up a difficult river and became a dragon. The streamers are to signify the wishes of the parents for their children to grow up to be outstanding citizens. Armor and helmets are also used as decoration to signify protection for boys.
Tanabata (Star Festival) - July 7
Tanabata (meaning "evening of the seventh") is a day that celebrates the reunion of two stars, Vega and Altair that only meet on this day. Though it is not recognized as a national holiday - there are several festivals held in honor of it.
Along with the stars, according to Japanese legend, a weaving princess named Orihime and a cow-herder named Hikoboshi can only meet on July 7, as the princess's father (a powerful god) forced them apart to where they can only meet each other one day a year.
The Japanese will decorate for Tanabata with streamers (which signify Orihime's weaving), nets (representing a good catch), purses (in hopes of good fortune or business) and cranes (which represent the hope of a long life). They also write wishes on strips of paper and hang them from bamboo trees.
Obon - July 13-15
From July 13-15 the Japanese throw a obon festivals all across the nation to celebrate and remember their ancestors who have passed on.
Umi No Hi (Ocean Day) - Third Monday of July
To celebrate the return of Emperor Meiji from a trip to Hakkaido in a boat in 1876, the Japanese have created a holiday to celebrate the ocean.
Keiro No Hi (Respect for the Aged Day) - Third Monday of September
On the third monday of Septemeber, Japanese celebrate the longevity of the elderly on keiro no hi.
Shubun No Hi (Autumn Equinox Day) - Around September 23
As in the week of the spring equinox earlier in the year, the Japanese go to celebrate the lives of their ancestors by visiting their graves during the week of the autumn equinox.
Taiiku No Hi (Sports and Health Day) - Second Monday of October
Taiiku no hi is celebrated every year to remember when that Olympic games were first opened in Tokyo in 1964.
Bunka No Hi (Culture Day) - November 3
Bunka no hi is a celebration to promote culture and the love the Japanese have for peace and freedom. On this day, awards are given to selected people for their acheivements in peace and culture by the government and schools.
Shichigosan (Seven-Five-Three) - November 15
Shichigosan is a festival for children, though it is not celebrated as a national holiday. It celebrates when children turn three different ages (ages 3 and 7 for girls, age 5 for boys). It serves as a reminder to years when infant and child mortality was much higher in Japan due to hunger, sickness or poverty. When a child turned 3, 5 or 7, the parents would typically go to a shrine to pray, thankful that their children had lived another year and hopeful that the children would continue to live.
Children and parents still dress in kimonos and go to the shrine to pray around November 15. Family photos are often taken at this time as well, sometimes in several different outfits.
Kinro Kansha No Hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day) - November 23
Kinro Kansha no Hi is a Japanese national holiday that honors labor and those who labor.
Tenno no Tanjobi - Emperor's Birthday - December 23
When a Japanese man becomes emperor, his birday is celebrated as a national holiday for the whole of his reign. When a new emperor comes to the throne, the holiday will change to a new date. The current emperor's birthday falls on December 23.
Christmas Eve/Christmas - December 24-25
Though Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, it is becoming more and more popular as an increasing number of Japanese people begin to celebrate it.
Omisoka (New Year's Eve) - December 31
Though Omisoka is not celebrated as a national holiday, it is noted to be the last day of the current year and marks the end of a journey.