Sunday Tangent: Japan Times on staggering the Golden Week holidays across the archipelago


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a neat (in the American sense) proposal bouncing around to stagger Golden Week so that the holidays essentially follow the seasons as they progress up the archipelago.  For the record, I think it’s a great idea (I am so fed up of having crappy weather during the GW holidays in Hokkaido; can’t do much outside yet, don’t want to go anywhere and face the crowds; and little money to do so even if I did), and would like to see it put into practice.

I don’t see how anyone would object (except for perhaps the tourist industry itself, which might oddly enough prefer to keep charging peak rates.)  That said, when it was first floated on TV’s Toku Da Ne a couple of weeks ago, the (old fart) panel was almost uniformly against it!  Some said they don’t take any holiday during that time period anyway (oh, that’s thinking outside of your lifestyle!), and head anchor Ogura even woodenheadedly said, “What would the media call the holiday?  I can’t think of a name.  So I oppose it.”  That’s one reason I don’t bother watching the self-indulgent and intellectually incestuous Toku Da Ne much anymore.

Excerpt follows from the Japan Times on how the plan would work.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


Japan Times Sunday, March 21, 2010
Moves afoot to make Japanese holidays a pleasure not a pain

By TOMOKO OTAKE Staff writer

A Japan Tourism Agency panel headed by Vice Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Kiyomi Tsujimoto is currently discussing ways to divide the nation into five different zones whose Golden Week holidays would be staggered by zone. The panel is also calling for the creation of a five-day holiday in the autumn — a so-called Silver Week — that would again be staggered by region and spread over five different periods.

In one of the two proposals on the table, Golden Week and Silver Week would be spread over five weeks, instead of one week; while the other proposal would, more confusingly, see the five zonal Golden Week and Silver Week periods overlapping each other a little to occupy a total span of 2 1/2 weeks each.

However, the changes — which would require legal amendments to national holiday laws, but which could be introduced as early as 2012 — do not mean Japan’s salaried workers will get more holidays. Instead, some of the existing national holidays would simply be moved to different dates, while keeping the original ones — such as Constitution Day on May 3, Green Day on May 4 and Children’s Day on May 5 — as non-holiday “memorial days.”

The agency’s logic goes like this. If people travel at different times, the yawning gap in travel costs between the peak and off-peak seasons would become smaller, making tourism affordable for more people. Tourists would also likely enjoy their vacations more, as they would experience less frustrating congestion, and so they would feel more inclined to travel more frequently and thus end up pumping more money into the tourism-related sectors of the economy. This would also help to stabilize the employment of people working in these sectors.

Full article at


15 comments on “Sunday Tangent: Japan Times on staggering the Golden Week holidays across the archipelago

  • Once they figure out the problems with families living in different regions of the country, then it might be a promising proposal.

  • I’m neither for or against it. No matter how they organize or re-organize it, it will have the following problems:
    1) Mass congestion no matter where you go
    2) Double and triple airfare costs

    Rather, I would like to see another choice: the option to take those four days off at a date of your choosing.

  • Oh dear ,that sounds like an even bigger mess… now at least my husband can take his “Golden Week” or “Obon” a weeok later or a week earlier than the actual holiday (since his company never actually closes and the emploees already get staggered holidays)… if that new system is introduced, the entire month of May will now be “peak time,” it won’t make anything cheaper, just prolong the expensive time!!! They need to do something to make sure that employees are actually taking the week off that they’re allowed to take by law… I don’t know how they’re going to enforce that, but letting each individual CHOOSE their week off would let people choose a random week on January or February that’s WAY off-season if they want, keep hotels and tourist towns happy by encouraging travel all year round, and let families plan their vacations around each other’s schedule, regardless of whether they live in the same district or not.

  • It would be better if people simply felt more free to take their 10 days or so per year whenever they wanted (amenable to circumstances), instead of waiting for mandated holidays when there is no choice but to book a flight at triple price because you won’t have another chance this year. I believe the deeper problem is that although people certainly want more time off, they still see vacation as a reward to be handed down from above rather than a right. Thus they’re in favor of the government forcing them to take more holidays, but not in favor of themselves just taking the ones they’re already contractually entitled to. Of course this is not exactly a practical or actionable belief.

  • Not just family, but understand that companies often do business with people across the country.
    Let alone companies that have branches in different regions.
    Having these “pocket holidays” so to say might cause too much confusion and damage, especially in this bad economy.
    Also, there’s a good chance that certain companies might simply ditch the idea of taking holidays since this model won’t make it “worth it.” Granted we already have places that don’t take the Golden Week off…

  • This is a great idea. Even though you’d still get the giant traffic jams and crowed shinkansens in Tokyo, once you got away, it would be much better.

  • GiantPanda says:

    Start enforcing the employee’s right to take the time off that they are already legally entitled to and we won’t have any problems! How about a financial penalty whereby the employer has to pay the employee three times the daily wage for each day of holiday they do not take? I think we would see a big boost in tourism then! 5 weeks of Golden Week would probably mean that plenty of employees just don’t get any time off at all.

  • Bad Idea.

    Much better to require that all staff TAKE the holiday they are entitled to- whenever they and their family/friends want to.
    I suggest deucting pay for holiday not taken.

  • Messing with the holiday calendar by region makes very little sense. When you get on an airplane, you pay based on your departure location. So if everyone in one region is traveling at the same time, the airlines will just raise prices for that departure point. There is no incentive for airlines to lower prices, a net “no change” for domestic travelers. Ground transportation doesn’t vary in price significantly and the long traffic jams are because everyone is leaving/returning to the same location. Again, “no change”. The only possible reduction in overall traffic and prices is at international departure points, because they are open to more competition. Accommodation prices would probably go up because there would be more demand for rooms throughout the year. And the kicker…if I want to visit family in another region, but they don’t have holidays at the same time; what do I do?

    There needs to be an incentive for companies to require all employees to use all of their allotted vacation time, or the current mindset will never change. Some financial incentive like paying for unused vacation time, being required to book a liability against unused vacation, or even some kind of penalty payment.

    Of course this will require companies to do one of three things: 1, become more efficient; 2, hire more people; or 3, have employees work much more overtime; in order to complete the same amount of work as before in less time. This of course probably would result in increasing labor costs across the board and driving many companies toward bankruptcy.

    I fear that the status quo will continue.

    — As in, people not taking vacations at all because of the phenomena you mention above regarding corporate culture. All you mention above (save the tourist industry incentives to gouge) means that if you take a vacation at any time, somebody has to fill in for you and do your work, or you’ll have to arrange your vacation so it coincides with somebody else’s vacation. The only way you’ll get around that is if everyone takes their vacation simultaneously. Hence, as you say, the status quo.

  • i dont think its a good idea at all.
    if there is an autumn holiday then the obon week break most companies have will most prob almost disappear meaning no summer holiday.
    also ,it will make it very difficult to work with other companies in other regions in japan.
    (same prob if you have family in another region)
    companies will just use this as an excuse to shorten the holiday period further from what it is now.
    the obvious solution is to let people take holidays individually when they want to ,rather than this crazy lets all holiday at the same time nonsense

    — Yes, in an ideal world. But I think this is being proposed as a compromise measure. Asking the whole nation’s corporations to reform their vacationing practices has been tried before and failed miserably.

  • let`s talk says:

    Golden week and Silver week are going to be longer that a month? Oh, what a good deal for the tourist industry! They will have a longer peak time! With the noble (and double-faced) excuse that that is all for people and for their happiness! How lovely. But I am not buying.

    The only right thing to do is to allow employees to take personal days-off ANY TIME during a year and when employees WANT. Not when the company or the government tell them: go on vacation now or never.

    — Again, we’re even less likely to get this tectonic shift in Japanese corporate culture allowing people to take vacations when they want. We’re asking for all or nothing here. I wish commenters would address this proposal as a “compromise measure”.

  • Conduct studies on worker happiness, productivity, stress levels, family life, etc. Publish the results in the mass media. Make an ever-so-popular show-about-people-watching-shows on the topic, glorifying systems in which employees are more free to take vacations. Pass and enforce legislation regarding over-time pay and unused vacation days.

  • In Germany’s 16 states, the six-week summer vacations (main travel time) start in shifts to reduce the burden on public transportation and the already strained highway network. I couldn’t imagine what 80 million travel-happy Germans would cause to the nation’s highway system if they all travelled at the same time, like Japanese do during GW, o-bon, year-end…

    So I’m all for the idea to spread out the start of the GW holidays across the nation.


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