Japan Creates New National Public Holiday to Give 'Overworked' Japanese a Break

Japan is introducing a new holiday to the calendar: Mountain Day, a day for “opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains." It will be Japan's 16th holiday, the most of all G8 countries, though Japanese workers take significantly fewer personal days from work than most other workers worldwide.

According to the UK Telegraph, Mountain Day will be every August 11 beginning in 2016 and was created "after legislation was passed by Japan’s parliament following lobbying from the Japanese Alpine Club and other mountain-related groups." The kinship with the mountains, the report continues, stems from the the importance of nature in Shintoism.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there may be another reason for adding the holiday to the calendar. "In Japan, there is of course paid vacation, but people don't take it," said the legislator pushing for the holiday, Seishiro Eto.

Eto, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that he was hoping Mountain Day would provide another opportunity for individuals to take their days off during the year rather than let them pass. According to a senior researcher at the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training speaking to the newspaper, there is an overwhelming feeling that "many Japanese people don't understand that paid annual leave is their right." The Japan Times notes that many observers have found that the reluctance to take a day off "is borne of an unwillingness to burden colleagues with extra work" and have to apologize the next day.

The initiative is part of a broader move by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make it easier for Japanese workers to take days off and have a more reasonable work-life balance. The Diplomat reports that the campaign is especially, though not exclusively, targeted towards women and making it more comfortable for women to enter the workforce. “We will press forward in reviewing the system of labor that gives consideration to the work-life balance, creating a society in which women shine," Abe said during a keynote speech at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on May 6.


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