GW—Golden Week

Today is the start of Golden Week in Japan. Several public holidays fall close together, and many workers take the whole week off. It’s a very busy time of year for trains, hotels, flights, and on the roads, as everyone tries to make the most of their few precious days off.

We’re not going anywhere, partly because we don’t have a car, and partly because work has been so exhausting that I am very happy just  to be able to stay at home and relax with Yuko and the dogs.

With the exception of Boys’ Day (5/5), nobody cares much about the holidays themselves – they are days off, and that’s what matters.

But for the record, they are:

April 29th: 昭和の日 shouwa no hi—Showa Day, the birthday of the Showa emperor, who died in 1988;

May 3rd: 憲法記念日 Kenpou kinenbi—Constitution Day, the anniversary of the 1947 constitution;

May 4th: みどりの日 Midori no hi—Green day, a day to appreciate nature;

May 5th: こどもの日 Kodomo no hi—Children’s day, also known as Boys’ Day (Girls’ Day is March 3rd).

On Children’s Day, there is a tradition of hanging koinobori flags in the shape of carp, to blow in the wind (one for each member of the family). I took this photo last year when we were cycling along Phoenix Street in Sakai city.

The hard-pressed Japanese workers are getting a bad deal this year, because Children’s Day falls on a Saturday, so there are only 3 public holidays in Golden Week instead of the usual 4. That means they need to ask for 2 days’ annual leave instead of 1, if they want to take the whole week off. Many of my colleagues sadly won’t be enjoying Golden Week as they are too busy at work to take time off, or they have business trips scheduled.

Note on the word of the day:

“Golden Week”, often written as “GW” in Japanese, is an example of wasei eigo or Japanese English—an English word that is used in Japanese but not in English. Other examples include sarariiman—”salary man” meaning an office worker; boorupen—”ball pen” meaning a ballpoint pen; sofutokuriimu—”soft cream, meaning whipped ice-cream, and maikaa—”my car”, meaning a privately owned car (but not necessarily mine, as in “do you have a my car?”). These words are pitfalls for Japanese learners of English, who may quite reasonably assume that they are English words. The word “walkman” is a construction of this type, that in turn became an English word.

So why is it called Golden Week? Good question. I’ve no idea.


2 thoughts on “GW—Golden Week

    1. Thanks Paddy. I don’t feel qualified to write about the “big” subjects like politics, or religion, or culture, or the Japanese perspective on life. By writing about the mundane details of life and my surroundings, I am hoping gradually to build up a picture of everyday life in Japan.

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