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Discover Japan's Newest Holiday

by Ryosuke Wada July 08, 2017

Mountain Day Japanese Holiday

We all wish for more holidays within the year. Whether it be for more days to sleep in, or having more time to travel, more days off wouldn’t hurt. That being said, however, the federal holidays are pretty much set for the entire year.

This is not the case for Japan.

Rather than people taking too many days off, Japan has a problem of people not taking enough breaks. There is a saying in Japan describing death from overworking, or “過労死”, as people work overtime every day to contribute to their society.

ancient japanese painting

Ancient painting of Japanese mountains

A typical Japanese professional is entitled to take 15 days off per year, but usually only take 7. By comparison, the average US workers takes about 16 days off per year an Australians are entitled to 22 days off.

The Japanese government is purposely trying to increase these holidays so there would be more days off for the working population in Japan.

Federal holidays in Japan typically fit into 4 different categories:

  1. Holidays pertaining to the royal family and the nation as a whole.
  2. Days commemorating religious ceremonies
  3. Seasonal celebrations
  4. Celebrations that came post war

Kumano Wakayama

Kumano Rice Paddies in Wakayama

The most recent addition to the federal holiday calendar is Mountain Day, or “山の日,” which takes place on August 11th. It’s a fitting holiday for Japan, as roughly 73% of the country is covered with mountains!

The Mountain day movement started with the Japanese Alpine club, as various organizations came together to make it a reality. The movement started in 2010, and the holiday was officially established in 2014! This holiday is so new, that some people in Japan have yet to know about it!

Yamadera Temple Yamagata

The beautiful Yamadera Mountains in Yamagata

So, why 8/11?

The original date was to be set on August 12, but there were strong objections to this date. As some of you may know, 8/12 is an extremely tragic date for Japan. This was the same day as the deadliest single aircraft accident in history involving Japan Airlines Flight 123, which occurred on August 12, 1985. A domestic flight from Tokyo to Osaka took a tragic turn as an explosive decompression caused the loss of all hydraulic control of the plane, and eventually caused the plane to crash in Ueno, Gunma Prefecture.

Other reasons for having this particular date was:

  • Because there were no holidays set in August
  • The number 8 as a chinese character, “八” looks like a mountain.
  • There is a day to appreciate the sea, so came the day to appreciate mountains
  • The summer season would be a fitting season for hiking.

beppu japan hot spring

Natural hot spring in the mountains of Beppu in Oita

There actually existed special days that appreciated mountains in certain prefectures!

  • Gunma Prefecture, Gunma Mountain Day, first monday of October
  • Osaka Prefecture, Osaka Mountain Day, second saturday of September

Explore other Japanese holidays!

Ryosuke Wada
Ryosuke Wada


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