Japan Eyes Holiday for Imperial Accession, Creates 10-Day Golden Week in 2019
The Japanese government has formally announced plans to designate May 1, 2019 — the date of the accession of the new Emperor of Japan — as a one-off holiday, thus setting the stage for a ten-day vacation period beginning on Apr. 27, 2019 and ending on May 6, 2019. The announcement comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chaired the first meeting of a government committee charged with organizing the details of the upcoming imperial succession events on Oct. 12, 2018.
Per the provisions of the Public Holiday Law of 1948, the national government recognizes 16 official holidays scattered throughout the year. Four, designated by date, are concentrated in the waning days of April and the first days of May: Showa Day (April 29), which commemorates the birthday of deceased Emperor Showa (Hirohito, reigned 1926-1989); Constitution Day (May 3), which marks the day the current Constitution of Japan came into effect; Greenery Day (May 4), which celebrates nature and the environment; and Children’s Day (May 5), which celebrates the child. Furthermore, the Public Holiday Law also stipulates that a day sandwiched between two “national holidays” becomes a “citizens’ holiday” and that national holidays falling on Sunday shall also be observed on the following Monday. This string of days off running from the last week of April through the first week of May is known as “Golden Week.”
Should the calendar line up, Golden Week is the longest continuous vacation period for most Japanese workers. In spring 2018, Golden Week consisted of two discontinuous stretches of three and four days, respectively: the first stretch started on Apr. 28 (a Saturday) and ended on Apr. 30 (a Monday) as Showa Day (Apr. 29) fell on a Sunday while the second stretch started on May 3 (Constitution Day, a Thursday) and ran to May 6 (a Sunday), with May 1 and 2 not covered by any category of public holiday.
On the contrary, for 2019, Showa Day falls on Monday, Apr. 29; Constitution Day falls on Friday, May 3, followed by Greenery Day on Saturday, May 4, and Children’s Day on Sunday, May 5, with an additional holiday on Monday, May 6, to formally observe Children’s Day. As May 1, 2019 lies exactly in the middle of the three-day gap between the first break of three days (starting Saturday, Apr. 27, and running to Apr. 29) and the second break of four days (May 3 to May 6), Tokyo’s move to formally declare Wednesday, May 1 as a national holiday would also make Tuesday, Apr. 30 and Thursday, May 2 “citizens’ holidays” and thus create an unprecedented 10-day Golden Week.
Apart from holiday declaration plans, the government committee chaired by Prime Minister Abe also reconfirmed Oct. 22, 2019 as the date of the enthronement ceremony for current Crown Prince Naruhito as the new Emperor of Japan and set Apr. 19, 2020 as the date for a ceremony formally designating Prince Fumihito, the younger brother of the Crown Prince, as the imperial heir and next-in-line for the Chrysanthemum Throne.
In a follow-up news conference after the Oct. 12 committee meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the government will submit the appropriate legislation for designating the holidays to the National Diet “as soon as possible.” On Oct. 13, the government announced that the Diet would be called into extraordinary session on Oct. 24 to consider bills related to amending work visa requirements for potential immigrants, appropriating additional funds for disaster relief and recovery operations, and officially designating May 1 and Oct. 22 of 2019 as holidays.
The abdication of the throne by incumbent Emperor Akihito on Apr. 30, 2019 followed by the accession of Crown Prince Naruhito on May 1 will mark the first time in over two centuries that the Chrysanthemum Throne has passed from one living Emperor to the next. The Japanese government will also designate a new “era name” to mark the change in monarch; as such, the year of 2019 up to Apr. 30 will be the 31st year of the era of Heisei while May 1 will the first year of a new era.