A National Holiday for June

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May 11, 2017

No sooner does Golden Week finish, than the depression sets in.

Ten weeks. That’s how long it will be till the next holiday, Umi no Hi (Marine Day), arrives. Until then, it will be a long, hard slog with the start of tsuyu — the rainy season — only adding insult to injury.

For years, I have felt that a national holiday right smack in the middle of June could make things more bearable. It is, after all, is the only month in the Japanese calendar that lacks one.

With 15 national holidays, Japan is well above the G20 average of 12. The scheduled abdication of Emperor Akihito and the enthronement of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, in 2019 could bring that number up to 16: the Emperor’s Birthday currently celebrated on December 23 would be renamed, I suspect, Heisei no Hi, and the crown prince’s February 23 birthday would become the new Tenno Tanjobi. Sixteen national holidays is nothing to sneeze at: it is double the number of public holidays in the U.K., and six more than the U.S. and Canada.

Still, I think Japan could — and should — go one further and create a new national holiday in June to help alleviate the symptoms of Gogatsu-byo, or “post-vacation blues.”

Japan should create a new national holiday in June to help alleviate the symptoms of Gogatsu-byo — the ‘post-vacation blues.’

But what would that holiday be?

Today, ten of Japan’s national holidays are related — either directly or indirectly — to the emperor, including Umi no Hi. Although we are told that this is a day on which to give thanks to the ocean’s bounty and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation, it originally commemorated the return of Emperor Meiji to Yokohama on July 20, 1876, after a voyage around the Tohoku region aboard the ship Meiji MaruYama no Hi (Mountain Day) on August 11, on the other hand, proves that any reason will suffice when creating a national holiday if only there is the political will for one.

Fortunately, Japan has no shortage of memorial or commemoration days. June 1 is Himuro no Hi, a day on which retainers of the feudal lords were given ice that had been stored underground since winter. June 4 has been known as “Cavity Prevention Day” in Japan since 1928 because “6” and “4” together can be read “mu-shi,” as in “mushiba” (dental cavities). June 6 is “Roll Cake Day” thanks to the shape of the number 6 resembling a Swiss roll. The sixth of June is also known as Geigoto Hajime no Hi, the day on which lessons in the arts — such as Japanese dance or koto — traditionally began. June 10 is Toki no Kinenbi, or “Clock Memorial Day,” commemorating the introduction of water clocks to Japan from China in the year 671. And June 11 is called Tsuyu-iri, the day that marks the start of the rainy season according to the old calendar. The eleventh is also known as Kasa no Hi (“Umbrella Day”), but however important rain may be, I doubt “Rain Day” would gain much traction as a national holiday.

No, I feel that more than any of above, the best candidate for a new public holiday in June would be Kome no Hi (“Rice Day”), a day on which the nation could reflect upon its staple food, the seedlings of which are replanted between mid-May and early- to mid-June, depending upon the region. Yes: Kome no Hi! I can just picture the grandees of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, or JA, rubbing their hands at the prospect. Schools and kindergartens could plan rice planting events around it. Retailers could promote products made from rice. And I would only have to wait four or five weeks until the next blessed holiday.

And while we’re at it, let’s make it the first or second Friday of the month. All those Happy Mondays, while welcome, have thrown a monkey wrench into university scheduling.

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Hakata-based American writer, translator and student of Japanese dialects and literature.

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