Are you planning to visit or move to Japan long-term? Or, are you already in Japan? Either way, your first time in Japan might be a bit challenging, especially since the culture and lifestyle are much different from that in Western countries. An example of one main difference is the Japanese calendar.
That's exactly why we've decided to write this blog post! If you're having trouble with Japanese times or dates, don't let it ruin your trip to Japan. Instead, keep reading so that you can learn Japanese and fully understand the Japanese calendar system. Don't worry, it's not as confusing as you might think!
Japan officially adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873. However, the traditional calendar is still in use all over modern-day Japan.
You are most likely to encounter the traditional calendar on official documents, paperwork, and printed calendars. That's why the Japanese calendar consists of official and unofficial systems!
The traditional Japanese calendar has a numbering system called 年号システム (nengō system). This system basically works by naming particular eras after the reigning emperor. After the Meiji period ended in 1912, each reign started to be designated as one era.
Knowing your birth date in Japanese will be a huge help to you when you visit the country since all governmental paperwork is drawn up according to the traditional Japanese dates. Of course, if you need a little extra help, you can refer to the image above!
The eto calendar, which is based on Chinese zodiac animals, follows a 12-year cycle. The system originally came from China and has since spread to other countries, including Japan.
However, in Japan, the order is rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar.
The Japanese calendar doesn't only show the days of the month based on the Gregorian calendar (新暦 - shinreki), but includes traditional Japanese month names (さつき - satsuki) and days of fortune (六夜 - rokuyo).
Also, each month in the traditional Japanese calendar starts later than that of the Gregorian calendar. So, the first month actually starts in February for us.
Here are the names and meanings of all the traditional months in Japanese:
Rokuyo means days of fortune and is basically a set of six days that will determine whether a day is lucky or unlucky. Many people use this information to time when they will arrange weddings and funerals.
Since Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne in 2019, the current era name is known as Reiwa (令和). Since Japanese years are calculated based on the number of years the emperor has reigned, the year 2022 in the Gregorian calendar is Reiwa 4 in the Japanese calendar.
The Japanese calendar includes 5 seasonal festivals, which are known as the 5 sekku, held on the lucky days according to Rokuyo.
Here are other important days and national holidays in the 2022 Japanese calendar:
Here are the other important days and national holidays in the Japanese calendar in 2022.
New Year’s Day - January 1
Japanese people don't really celebrate the lunar new year but they do celebrate the new year on January 1. A lot of businesses and shops are closed from January 1 to 3.
Don't be surprised if you see long queues at the entrance of temples and shrines because they want their first visit of the year to be in a temple and this is actually a tradition called hastsumode.
Coming of Age Day - January 10
It is a day to congratulate young people who have come of age that year. It is always celebrated on the second Monday of January. The coming of age ceremony is unexceptionally held in every municipality in Japan on the same day.
National Foundation Day - February 11
It is an annual celebration dedicated to the founding of Japan on February 11. Meiji Shrine holds a parade each year to celebrate this important day.
Emperor’s Birthday - February 23
On February 23, many Japanese people gather at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to celebrate the current Reiwa Emperor’s birthday and offer their best wishes.
Vernal Equinox Day - March 21
Vernal Equinox Day marks the change between seasons when there are around equal lengths of sunlight and darkness.
Japanese people have a tradition of visiting the graves of their passed away family members on this day. They also eat a kind of wagashi named botamochi on this holiday.
Shōwa Day - April 29
Showa is actually the name of a previous era in Japan so this day was actually created to recall those times. You can enter Showa Kinen Park in Tokyo for free on this day.
Constitution Memorial Day - May 3
Various events are held all over Japan on this day. All of the sightseeing places and public transportation systems can be quite crowded.
Greenery Day - May 4
This holiday was created to develop mindfulness about the blessings of nature. You can visit many zoos and gardens for free on this day.
Children’s Day - May 5
Children's Day is an important day that honors the individuality and existence of children and people wish for children's happiness and well-being, they also express gratitude towards mothers on this day. Many facilities for children are free or discounted for this day.
Marine Day - July 18
This holiday takes place every third Monday of July and people show gratitude for the blessings of the ocean as they live in an island country. Some of the Maritime Self Defense Force bases in Japan are open to the public to celebrate this day.
Mountain Day - August 11
This is actually a new holiday that was first celebrated in 2016. The purpose of this holiday is to make people familiarized with the mountains and appreciate their important role in Japan.
Respect for the Aged Day - September 19
The third Monday of every September is celebrated as the Respect for the Aged Day in Japan. You are expected to show respect for the elderly on this day and to serve the purpose of this day many facilities and national parks are free for 50+ people.
Autumnal Equinox Day - September 23
Autumn Equinox Day is the opposite of Vernal Equinox Day and people do the same thing, they visit their family graves on this day.
Sports Day - October 10
The purpose of this holiday is to foster the healthy mind and body motto by encouraging locals to try some sports activities. Sports-related events are held across the country at gymnasiums and sports centers on this day.
Culture Day - November 3
Culture Day is celebrated annually on November 3 to protect the Japanese culture while respecting freedom and peace in the country. Various art events sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs are arranged on this day. You can enter many museums and galleries for free on Culture Day.
Labor Thanksgiving Day - November 23
This is a holiday that values labor and production. Around this day, the famous autumn leaves areas can be very crowded.
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