Work life balance and Japanese bank holidays

Today(10th August, 2020) is a bank holiday, called Mountain Day in Japan. It is a public holiday stipulated by the Article 2 of the Act on National Holidays, and according to the law, there are 16 days of public holidays a year in Japan.

The number of public holidays in the UK, where I lived in the past, is 8 days a year.

I often feel that there are too many bank holidays in Japan, and when I find that Japan has twice as many bank holidays as the UK, I think to myself my feeling is right.

I have made a comparison of the number of bank holidays in the UK and Japan, so let’s take a look at some of the cultural differences related to holidays. As a reader of this blog, you may relate to Japanese society, and you may also hear that the Japanese people don’t take a day off work unless it’s a bank holiday.

In my experience, colleagues go to work even though they have a fever or a bad cold. Ever since I started to be self-employed, I’ve been thinking that they don’t need to push themselves too hard about going to work, but many of them I know go to work anyway. Then, if their condition gets worse, they would go home. However, it is likely for them to stay in their office until 5 or 6 pm. The background to this attitude, on the positive side, is that it is an expression of a sense of responsibility that they shouldn’t inconvenience other colleagues, but on the negative side, the old practice of “traditional loyalty” still exists in Japanese society.

I hope that the attitude above will be changed soon because of the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, when I talk to friends from Britain about this matter, their typical attitude is that “No way!”. Then, they ask next how many days of holiday Japanese workers have. The answer is about a week. When I answer like that, they definitely say that that is not a holiday at all. At least a month of annual holiday is needed. I’m sure that Japanese culture has certain strengths, but I personally hope, as my British friends say, that the standard holiday entitlement should be at least a month.

In addition, in Japan, there is a custom, called “OBON” (お盆), to welcome the spirits of ancestors from the afterlife to return for a few days in the middle of August. It will be from 13th to 16th August in 2020. This custom is regarded as a Buddhist one, but a memorial service has been held once or twice a year to honor the spirits of ancestors since ancient times of Japan. “OBON” is an event that integrates ancient Japanese customs and Buddhism ones.

Note to self, “OBON” is not a bank holiday, so council offices and banks are open for business as usual.

I will update every Monday.
For more information
Japanese business start-up consultant
Shihoshoshi Lawyer
(Judicial Scrivener)
Akiko HORI

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