There are four national holidays during the Golden Week period:
Shōwa Day昭和の日April 29
Constitution Memorial Day憲法記念日May 3
Greenery Day緑の日May 4
Children’s Day子供の日May 5
Shōwa Day 昭和の日 is held on April 29th and is the birthday of the late Emperor Hirohito, the Shōwa Emperor, who sat the Chrysanthemum throne 皇位 from 1926 until 1989. Shōwa Day is intended to be a time to reflect upon the events of Emperor Hirohito’s 63 year rule, but is well known for marking the beginning of Golden Week, one of the longest national holiday period in Japan.
May 3rd is Constitution Memorial Day 憲法記念日, held every year to commemorate the declaration in 1947 of Japan’s constitution. It was first celebrated in 1948 to reflect upon democracy and the role of the government.
Greenery Day 緑の日 falls on May 4th and is celebrated as a day to commune with nature and be grateful for its blessings. Originally established in 1989 and held annually on April 29 until 2007 when it was renamed Shōwa Day in remembrance of the Showa Emperor Hirohito’s love of plants.
Golden Week is also rice planting season and when the first crop of green tea is harvested. Known as ichibancha, this first picking of green tea is widely regarded as the tastiest of the three yearly pickings (the other two pickings, nibancha and sanbancha occur in July and September). Going to a garden or a tea room for a tea ceremony will grant you the chance to try the best green tea on this day celebrating all things green.
Children’s Day 子供の日 occurs on the 5th of May and dates back to the Nara Period when it was known as 端午の節句 (Tango no Sekku) to celebrate the perseverance, strength, and well-being of boys. Today, the celebration meaning is still the same, and is most visibly celebrated with people flying Carp-shaped Koinobori flags from flag poles throughout the country by families with sons.
Traditionally a large black Koinobori, known as the Magoi representing the father, flies at the top of the pole, a red koinobori, the Higoi representing the mother comes second followed by a blue koinobori representing the first son. Additional koinobori are added for each subsequent son with the carp’s color and position denoting the son’s relative age.
Tango no Sekku was renamed Kodomo no Hi after the post-War constitution took effect in 1948 and was changed to include girls and to express gratitude toward mothers but symbolically the holiday is still predominantly for boys. A girls day, known as the Hinamatsuri ひな祭り or doll festival, is observed on March 3rd of every year but is not considered a public holiday.
Golden Week ゴールデンウイーク is considered one of the busiest holiday periods with many people taking advantage of their time off to travel and enjoy the fresh spring weather. Many cities and towns throughout Japan have large festivals during this time as well. One of the largest such festivals is held in Hamamatsu City 浜松市 in Shizuoka Prefecture 静岡県. It features Brazilian Samba dancing (because of its large Brazilian and South American population); parades of shrine floats, each one representing a different town, each one different from the next and all of them pulled by matching yukata clad teams from their respective towns.
Source: Gaijinpot.com; Wikipedia.org
Happy Natsu Matsuri, Del Rey – by Argonaut News 6.24.2015
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