Is anything more beautiful than the month of May? Can there be anything better than 10 days of paid holiday? Put the two together and you get… “the May sickness,” says Weekly Playboy (April 22).
It happens every year. The shift into the new era extends the traditional spring Golden Week break – in fact, roughly doubles it – but so little allowance has Japanese culture made for unfettered, irresponsible relaxation that the annual trauma, supposedly a blessing, could prove this year as traumatic.
What is the May sickness? April and May usher in the new fiscal year, the new school year, perhaps a new job, or a transfer, or a promotion entailing new responsibilities – and so on. It’s a time of adjustment, which sometimes doesn’t come easily. The break, far from making it easier, can actually make it more difficult. All the accumulated fatigue you’ve suppressed for so long surges to the surface. You’re still overwhelmed by it, and already it’s time to get back to work. Some people don’t make it back on time – absenteeism in early May is always high. Some people don’t make it back at all – they quit, especially new hires, discouraged by the first few weeks at a new job that seems nothing like what their pre-hiring orientation session had led them to expect. It’s easier to quit a job now than ever before. Companies in these depopulated days are chronically shorthanded. You’ll find something better, you tell yourself. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. If not, you’re still young, you have time – you tell yourself.
So much for the May sickness. Let the experts predict, observe and compare notes. We’ll soon know from experience whether the extended holiday is good for Japan or bad for it.
Come May 1, we’ll find ourselves in a new era – Reiwa. “What do you think of the name?” Weekly Playboy asks 500 readers. Quite possibly no one had ever heard it before. The two characters that comprise it are drawn from the Manyoshu, an 8th-century poetry anthology. The character rei means order; wa means harmony. The response to Playboy’s poll was generally positive, 67 percent liking it, 33 percent inclined to dislike it. Many of those who like it say, “It has a nice ring to it.” Those who don’t like it say the opposite: “It’s hard to say, it doesn’t roll naturally off the tongue.” Another objection is that it sounds too much like Showa. The Showa era lasted from 1926 to 1989, a remarkably long time, encompassing many things, from wartime death to postwar resurrection. “It’s a bit like saying that Japan hasn’t changed since Showa,” complains sociologist Satoshi Hamano.
Assuming the Showa reference is intentional, one may well wonder which half of it Reiwa’s framers had in mind – the first half’s militarist surge in pursuit of national glory, or the second half’s channeling of Japan’s prodigious energies into economic growth.
Perhaps neither. Playboy’s third and final question to its readers was, “What do you expect from the new era?” The number one answer suggests a withdrawal, as the population ages, from vigorous, all-out pursuits of all kinds. The answer was, “Extension of medical care, pensions and other aspects of the social safety net.”© Japan Today