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Law may be changed to reduce number of long holiday weekends

46 Comments

Question: Of the 15 national holidays in a year, how many of them are so-called “Happy Mondays?"

The national holidays law was revised in 2000 to provide more 3-day weekends for the purpose of enriching leisure time and stimulating the tourism industry. The law was believed to bring about positive economic effects in the range of 1 trillion yen.

However, the government is now considering abolishing the system. This idea is part of a separate legislative bill to decentralize long holidays such as Golden Week, and proposed by Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Seiji Maehara, who also heads the government’s agency for the “Promoting a Tourism-Oriented Country” strategy.

According to an insider of the Holiday Decentralization Working Team, “Domestic traveling concentrates during Golden Week, the summer Bon season and the end and beginning of the year. The proposal is to establish 4 to 5 regions in the country so that the Golden Week period won’t overlap... We hope to decentralize the Bon holiday, which coincides with children’s summer vacation as well.”

In line with this proposal, the government wants to scrap the Happy Monday system so that people can enjoy long holidays at a time instead of 3-day weekends. The tourism industry seems to favor this idea as well. A law school professor ssaid it would benefit the Japanese who only use 46% of their paid holidays.

But numerous problems are foreseeable, such as interference in businesses located in different regions, which need to be addressed before such a law can be enacted. While some have reported that the legislation will be implemented as early as 2012, the reality is that deliberations on the proposal have only begun.

Conclusion: The usual holiday congestions should be expected for another while.

© Japan Today

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46 Comments
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Japan amazes me sometimes by the ability to stand nose to tree while missing the rest of the forest.

Problem Statements: Holiday travel is congested. Travel tends to bulk up around key holidays. 46% of workers don't take all their paid leave.

Japanese Government Solution: Reduce holidays and create a cryptic system of rolling holidays based on region.

IDIOCY!!

Real Problem Statements: Holiday travel bulks up because these are the only times companies let people have time off. This results in congestion during the holidays. 46% of workers don't take time off because they are encouraged or forced not to. Company expectations prevent people from having reasonable holidays.

Solutions: Enforce labor laws by making companies give people time off at variable times during the year. This behavior should be encouraged so that people go on vacation when it is convenient for them and not when the whole country does. The rest of the developed world seems to manage this just fine. Gambatte Japan!

Second. Make it illegal for a company to press people to work too much and forego vacations. Fine them if they break this regulation, they will learn to change.

Third. We like our long holidays. They give workers a break. If anything Japanese workers need MORE HOLIDAYS! Life is more than work dear slow minded friends in goverment and business. Workers need time off. Many studies prove that this encourages greater creativity, better productivity and aids the economy as well.

So step back from the tree, just a few inches and you will see there is an entire forest of trees here. Now isn't that better?

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tkoind2 where are you coming from?The plan is not to shorten holidays but to lengthen them.Talk to housewives and they'll tell you that the endless number of long weekends arent used optimally-so the govt's plan is to transfer them onto their longer vacation periods..how is it a cryptic system ?It seems they will be given an opportunity to take such holidays when it IS convenient for them and their employers..

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tkoind2 you are very correct. This silly plan is based on the idea Japanese will use their paid holiday vacations. They won't, this will only make people work more.

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Holiday Decentralization Working Team

What?!?!?

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rajahsahib. The proposal is cryptic because it will regionalize holidays. Now just how does creating regional peak periods help anything? Plus it ignores the fact that most people travel back home to some other part of the country to see family. If your family lives in "A" place that is not on holiday when your "B" place is, then you may not be able to visit because they are still working.

Look, it isn't rocket science to solve this problem. It is elementary my dear rajahsahib. If workers have more flexibility to take long scheduled holidays, they will do so at times that work for their family situations. This means they will go at various times of year and not at set holidays. And during this time they will not contribute to massive migrations of holiday travellers.

You need only look to Europe and America to see that this kind of holiday thinking works well. My friends are coming in April and another set in June. No peak conflicts, and the schedule was worked out between us with no need for state intervention.

Making complicated solutions to obviously easy issues just requires a little less nose to tree vision and little more thinking about the bigger forest of issues. But then this is Japan where the fine and ancient arts of needlessly complicating things is transcended only by the inability of the government to understand the needs of the people.

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There is something with Japanese mentality that taking a holiday is bad... Its such a pain to get relatives to come visit us because they keep saying its hard to take time off from work.

Everyone here is going to work themselves to death.

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I don't know about you all, but I love my Happy Mondays

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tkoind2 - breath in... breath out...

RELAX

Oh, and by the way, how do you determine if a company "presses people to work too much and forego vacations"? "press" does not equal "force" or "deny"

And it's not just the companies, but the individuals who have this work-work-work mindset. Good luck with your revolution.

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""press" does not equal "force" or "deny""

In Japan press does = force or deny. I have been in this country a long time and worked for both Japanese and foreign owned companies here. Without exception people take very little vacation and site pressure from peers, from management and from expectations placed upon them.

Cultural and social force still translates as force. Now if companies were compelled to assure that vacations happen, then people would develop similiar expectation standards and comply. This is Japanese culture and it should be used to assure healthier work/life balance for more workers.

"Relax" I would love to. As would many other people who work in this country. But the conditions here do not allow for it. Changing the holidays in this way will make it even harder for people to do so. And failing to address the root problems that cause people not to take holidays is not helping matters.

Japan suffers from very serious down stream problems resulting from having an overworked, overstressed society. 30K+ suicides every year, increasing bizzare and violent crime, decline of the nuclear family, a generation of drop outs who are fearful to follow in their salaryman father's footsteps and declining birth rate.

All of these problems of symptomatic of a society out of balance. At the center of this imbalance is the cultural model of work until you die. And it is causing all kinds of problems for this society.

Bottom line, if you care about the future of Japan, work/life and family balance is the crux of the issue that must be addressed. Time off, holidays and leave are essential to properly addressing this issue. So how can anyone relax knowing what is at stake for workers and the country?

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"Good luck with your revolution."

It is easier to ignore problems, put your head in the sand and dismiss yourself from responsibility. People do this about the environment, about global issues, about the well being of their communities and neighbors.

It isn't "my revolution" is is our society and like it or not you are also responsible to care about the welfare of the world around you. Whether you do anything about it or not is a measure of moral fortitude and your ability to accept responsibility for making a difference.

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tkoind your 2nd and 3rd paragraph,to me,sounds exactly what the 'working team ' is endeavouring to do.Naturally if employers arent negotiable so that sons and daughters in A can conveniently visit parents in B its meaningless

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tkoind2

Well said. I was going to post something about this, but you've already said it. My girlfriend who had a basic job at a securities company wanted to take two weeks off last year. The request went up the management chain and came down again. No. It would set a precedent. So she quit.

But basically that's the stand you can get 20 days a year leave, but you can't use it to good use.

Pathetic, this work ethic. How about a life ethic!

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rajahsahib

tkoind your 2nd and 3rd paragraph,to me,sounds exactly what the 'working team ' is endeavouring to do.

Yes the goal is the same, but they're going the wrong way about it. tkoind2 is right. Force companies to comply to give their workers time off because they are so self interested and won't do it without rules to force them.

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How about creating a (normal) society where people can take holidays freely, depending on their work, at lots of different times of the year instead of just when the government tells them to?

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This country has a far way to go in terms of seeing the importance of adequate rest and relaxation.That plan isnt even a tip in the bucket. Take the teachers for example, they do not even get weekends off, having a weekend free is like winning the lotto for them. Why is that??? They have to go to school during the Summer/Spring holidays everyday untill 7-8pm, even though there are no kids to teach or much paper work to do.

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So fitting is the phrase "we work to live not live to work".We as foriegners cannot hope to understand many of the cultural issues involved that surround what we take for granted.Unions fought for years to get the benifits that we enjoy today.Governments passed laws for industry to work within those laws.I don't think there are many that don't take and enjoy those benifits(holidays).The unions here in Japan,only from what I have read,not experienced,seem to concentrate only on the yearly wage hike. I agree with the postings here ,that this work only mentality has to change,from the government passing work related laws,to industry implimenting them and lastly for the Japanese workers to accept and enjoy. We all need to charge our batteries ,to give our best, and the Japanese workforce is no different.

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Bad news Japanese workers. You are the modern day equal of slaves or peasants. Your political representation doesn't protect your interests, instead the protect the people who exploit you. The laws that do exist to protect you are not enforced. And you have only two choices, 1. comply and have a small place to live, food to eat and enough gadgets to keep you distracted enough not to take a serious interest in the world around you. or 2. you can end up homeless, subhuman and useless on the fringe of society where such misfits belong in such a system.

But there is a third option the state is not sharing with you. One that your brainwashed peers are too blind to see and the companies terrified you will discover. And that option is resistance! Organize, work together and demand change. Use your consumer power, political power and labor power to force change for the better. Once the mass of workers come to realize this, things will change.

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Absurdity. There is no point in having 3-day weekends. All Japan should do is just enforce STRICT labour laws. 4 weeks minimum paid holiday a year and overtime is paid at 50% or more. If they want more holidays, they take it unpaid. Simple.

I'm sick to death of this attitude of people being too afraid to take annual leave etc. A friend of mine is going to NZ, but she says she can only go during Golden Week, despite having annual leave, and the airfare being 60,000 more expensive.

Lunacy.

Let people take a 5-day or greater holiday for once in ther lives. Perish the thought, even 2 weeks!!

Also needs to be enforced in the schools; no club ativities. People need a break once in a blue moon.

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Company I'm familiar with allows employs to take vacations a couple of days before Golden Week so that the employees can afford plane tickets. They also encourage workers to take a day off during the month to, as the memo stated 'loosen up.' Still, most employees don't.

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tkoind2: Totally agree! Your first post summed it up nicely.

The biggest problem is that people only use 46% of their paid holidays. Crazy! I've talked to students about this and I realized how difficult it was for them just to take a normal holiday.

First, it looks bad if you are taking a 10-day holiday while your coworkers are only taking 3 days off. Second, workers feel guilty leaving their work for others to do while they are gone. Also, this can be unbalanced if one person takes more vacation time than another. And of course, the boss does not like it at all.

Forget about being respected or getting promoted if you actually take all your paid vacation days! Working you butt off is praised and if you don't measure up, the company doesn't give a flying puck. My friend was actually demoted because she refused to work like a slave.

How the heck are people going to visit their families in other regions if their holidays fall on different days? That's what short national holidays and long weekends are for--seeing your family! Holidays that workers decide are for doing other things like going overseas or doing leisure activities.

Workers should be allowed to take all of their paid holidays without fearing that they will be looked down as a disloyal employee, lose respect from their coworkers and boss, or even in the worst case scenario, be fired. The government has to penalize companies whose employees are not taking most of their days off. How can they expect people to be productive if they don't have a chance to relax and recharge their batteries?

Conclusion: This is a hair-brained idea.

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Conclusion: This is a hair-brained idea.

the j-govt has more hair on their brains than on their heads

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It's interesting. In my jobs (computer programmer) in Canada I never got more than 10 days paid vacation. Granted, sick days were never a problem. If we put aside the issue of sick days for a moment, a lot of people here have 20 days of paid vacation. If they take, on average, 46 percent of them, that's very close to the 10 days I had for the 20 years I worked as a programmer.

Now there a a lot of national holidays here. And it makes sense to me that the holidays are concocted to force companies into actually granting days off. The biggest problem I've run into here is being able to take a long vacation. Even 2 weeks is virtually impossible. But it's fairly easy to take a few days here and there if there is down time.

Personally, I think grouping holidays together and decentralizing them is a great idea. It makes travel much easier, and it makes taking a longish vacation doable. And since the national holidays are obvious to companies, it allows them to plan for downtime at the appropriate time.

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Oh, and by the way, how do you determine if a company "presses people to work too much and forego vacations"? "press" does not equal "force" or "deny" And it's not just the companies, but the individuals who have this work-work-work mindset. Good luck with your revolution.

If am employee asks for time off (as allowed in their contract) and are told "no" then I would say that's the company forcing and has nothing to do with the employee's mindset. That's exactly the situation my girlfriend has at work and it's not uncommon. She's basically allowed one week of holiday a year at a time that is agreeable to her employer.

The government has to penalize companies whose employees are not taking most of their days off. How can they expect people to be productive if they don't have a chance to relax and recharge their batteries?

Agreed! Japanese workers may work longer than their counterparts in America or Europe but I don't think they are getting more done.

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What morons the japanese workers are that they put up with not taking their holidays and doing unpaid overtime etc. This is supposed to be a group society, well get into your little groups, resist, fight back, demand your rights. Who can have any respect for the japanese worker?? Pathetic, just pathetic.

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Let's burn out the employees and see how productive they will be!

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...the government wants to scrap the Happy Monday system so that people can enjoy long holidays at a time instead of 3-day weekends.

I can't be sure, but I think something important is missing from this sentence.

So if I'm reading this article correctly, they want to change the celebration of "Golden Week" to allow staggered observance of the associated holidays based on region? Residents in Hokkaido will celebrate in the middle of June, but residents in Okinawa will celebrate in March (for example)? The company in Tokyo who deals with suppliers in those regions is going to have twice as many days where one of their suppliers are closed due to holidays.

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could someone tell me: by the law how many holidays do the Japanese have?

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It's interesting. In my jobs (computer programmer) in Canada I never got more than 10 days paid vacation. Granted, sick days were never a problem. If we put aside the issue of sick days for a moment, a lot of people here have 20 days of paid vacation. If they take, on average, 46 percent of them, that's very close to the 10 days I had for the 20 years I worked as a programmer.

You had 10 days paid vacation + all national holidays, right? These are just the national holidays we are talking about. Japanese workers mostly get those (not always) but can almost never take their personal days. They are entitled by contract if not by law to take those. That's the problem.

10 days paid leave is absurd. Healthy societies grant their workers twice that, minimum. Good for the workers, the workers' families, good for society as a whole. People are more productive when they are in the office. Win win.

I don't see why the j-gov feels the need to tinker with OUR holidays when there are much more pressing needs. I personally like the public holidays as they are now (not the paid vacation issue, just the public holidays). Three day weekends break up the monotony of the working year. The fact that there are plenty of them makes life even better.

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yes people are clearly too happy in Japan, they need less of a reason to take a break or even have their holidays with family. Such an advanced country.

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how will decentralizing golden week and bon holidays make japanese workers use more of their paid vacation days? japanese people don't use their holidays because their bosses and co-workers make them feel guilty for using them. overworked and overstressed employees makes for a stronger workforce, so the japanese ideology goes.

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Many people in Japan believe that over-working and sacraficing your life for company is honorable.

On long holiday weekends, we need them. Not only so the burn-out salarimen can relax but for leisure and retail business that thrive during "bank holidays".

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"Holiday Decentralization Working Team"

Just how much am I paying to fund this 'team'?

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Japan has long refused to adopt summer daylight savings out of worries that moving clocks an hour ahead would result in "confusion" --- and now they are saying different parts of the country should take holidays on different dates???? Here's a more sensible suggestion. You have women-only commuter cars, so why doesn't the government enforce for women-only national holidays?

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Here's a more sensible suggestion. You have women-only commuter cars, so why doesn't the government enforce for women-only national holidays?< Beelzebub: They already have that, it's called "Woman Hardship Leave", they get 1 day in the month for it....

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Many people in Japan believe that over-working and sacraficing your life for company is honorable.

I don't think anybody believes that anymore. It's more that employees are forced to work too much and not take holidays. It's not really voluntary.

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Meh lots of businesses make people work Tuesday to Saturday to avoid these holidays anyway... I say lump them all together and give us a week off instead (and punish companies who work during this time.)

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I don’t really believe in “forced”, unless we are talking about animals and not about human beings. It is up to each individual to stand up and to fight for his own rights, some people think that is easier to follow the crowd, so everything in the life is just a matter of choice

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Social stigma is still a very powerful and intimidating tool used to bully workers. I doubt you'd get any overt and obvious denials to vacation requests, if you pushed it, but certainly there is unspoken punitive pressure invoked to make you feel guilty. Western raised ex-pats will clearly not have trouble requesting time should they need it, but that isn't the issue. Native Japanese will still be reluctant, as bentheredonthat and pawatan implied, to take their full, rightfully entitled allocation of holidays.

The work culture is in much greater need of deep systemic change than the superficial, window dressing, 'take an aspirin and call me in the morning' approach. tkoind2, I hope you're a boss or manager somewhere because your posts display a great deal of pragmatism and intelligence.

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marushka, you may not feel you have so much choice when you are married with kids and a home loan. At that point, changing jobs might not seem like an attractive option especially if you live in the country. And you will know full well that if you take your paid leave you will be treated differently by everybody at work, making your day to day life hard. Yes, even a peasant of feudal times could have packed up and found another feudal lord to live under. The question is, at what cost? If the costs of a decision are too high, and one side is being inflated purely by the malevolent decisions of others, we consider the decision "forced".

tkoind2 has left with little more to add. He or she should be an advisor to Minister Maehara, and Maehara should listen well.

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HeyLars:agree, fully agreed, but in the same time, if no one does something, things won’t change. Yes, some people have to show that they have got some balls and they can take what they worked for- their holidays. Yes, it demands a lot of courage and stress resistance, but by the end this person will be more respected than a “crowd- donkey”. One of my Japanese friends told me, he has not got a girl friend, neither hobby- he does not need really holidays, as he doesn’t know what to do in his free time. Maybe this can be considered as well one of the reason why holidays are “ unpopular” among Japanese people…

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could someone tell me: by the law how many holidays do the Japanese have?

I've asked a lot of Japanese people this, no one seems to know. If there is a law it doesn't seem to be enforced.

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Those of us who work in a japanese company know just how weak docile and pathetic the japanese slave er I mean worker really is. I can't see things ever changing for the better.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Another thought I had: the government is raising a society of victims. No one takes the blame for their failures so nor can anyone take credit for their successes. Workers believe they are powerless and behave passively. This victim mentality has probably been taught to them throughout their lives. --You have no effect on the world so basically any action you take is useless.--SHOGANAI!

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Just call in sick! That's the way to do it.

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If I have vacation days owed, I'm sure as hell going to take them and the company and coworkers can try to make me feel guilty but I aint going to listen.

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How about the government bringing daylight savings into the discussion while they're at it? If we did away with the sun rising at 4:30 am and setting by 6:30-7:00 pm during the longest days of the year and had daylight until longer into the day, corporate employees might be able to get more enjoyment out of weekdays, too.

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