This week is one of the longest holidays in Japan, and it was extended because of the coronation of the new Emperor today. This year, a day or two extra was added, and Golden week spans from April 27 to May 6th. It isn’t that it is one big celebration, but it just happens to be several celebrations in one week, and on top of that, if one of them falls on a Sunday, the Japanese also get Monday off. It has caused them to have a good amount of time off right now. People are off work which caused the hotels to be full and the tourists sites crowded.
The first holiday in Golden Week is on April 29th. It is called Showa Day. “Sho” means “shinning,” and “wa” means “peace.” it is a day the Japanese are supposed to think about the turbulent rein of Emperor Hirohito, the emperor during World War 2. He reined for 63 years, and many more terrible things happened during his reign than World War 2: the fall of Taisho Democracy, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, two attempted coups, the rise of Totalitarianism, the post war occupation of Japan, the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea, etc. Things were really hard during his rule, but they came out of it with an economic miracle after World War 2. Originally, this day was set aside as a celebration of the birthday of the Japanese Emperor, and then it was changed to Greenery Day in 1989, but then Greenery Day was changed to May 4 in 2007 and given back to the emperor, but not a birthday, a day of reflection.
This week, there is an extra holiday during Golden Week on April 30. On April 30, today, the Crown Prince Naruhito will have a coronation to become the Emperor of Japan. If you want to know more about that, look at my proceeding blog.
The next holiday during Golden Week is on May 3rd. May 3rd is Constitution Day in Japan. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces. After that, the American General Douglas MacArthur worked with the Japanese Emperor and cabinet members and drafted a constitution for Japan. America wasn’t wanting to take Japan over. They just wanted them to stop fighting. The Japanese actually ratified the constitution on November 3, 1946, on Emperor Meiji’s birthday. However, it didn’t come into effect until May 3, 1947. On this day, the Japanese people reflect on the meaning of Democracy.
Golden Week has more holidays, and next is Greenery Day. This day is also related to Emperor Hirohito. He loved plants, and April 29th was initially celebrated at the Emperor’s birthday, but then changed to Greenery Day because of Emperor Hirohito’s love for plants and outdoors. However, when they decided to make April 29th Showa Day to reflect on the turbulent years of Emperor Hirohito’s rule, they decided to change the day for Greenery Day and move it to May 4th. On this day, Japanese go outside and enjoy and appreciate nature. They have parades. They gather in groups to plant trees. Some just visit relatives. Others go to the park or to the zoo. They are encouraged to enjoy what mother nature has to offer on this day.
The last holiday during Golden Week is Children’s Day, May 5th. This was originally called Boy’s Day, and they also have a Girl’s Day, but not during Golden Week. Girl’s Day is March 3rd. On Girl’s Day, the girls take all their dolls out and put them on display for people to visit their house and see. On Boy’s Day, or Children’s Day, for every boy in the house, they fly fish kites outside of their house representing each boy in the home. They also put Samurai dolls out around the house. The Japanese want to encourage their children to grow up strong and brave.
Golden Week is a really important time in Japan. Businesses are closed, and there is a lot happening. When I was in Japan as a teacher, I also got to celebrate the Obon Festival in January with them in Okayama. It is a huge family celebration when everyone goes back to visit their families. At the fair grounds, they have a big drum beating and everyone comes and dances around the drum. There are lots of small temporary shops along the edges where you can buy souvenirs and refreshments. I saw the fish kite on Boy’s Day when I was a student and attended festivals I didn’t understand at the time, and as a teacher many years later, I attended the Obon Festival which I understood better and really reminded me of an Indian Pow Wow in Oklahoma in the U. S.