While web surfing Japanese news, a headline caught my attention: “The rate for used portion of employees’ annual paid vacation days reached the highest at 56.6%” (per 2021 Ministry of Labor survey). Earning 20 paid vacation days annually for example, Japanese are using only 11 days on average, and that is the highest usage recorded. When I worked in Japan during the 80’s as a young and inexperienced employee, I remember the strong sense of guilt in requesting vacation days from my superior. Many Japanese feel the social pressure to have loyalty to the employer, and one way to show their devotion is to work hard and long hours even sacrificing their paid vacation days. This pressure must have evolved during the high growth period under the lifetime employment system before the bubble economy burst in 1990. Since then, the work culture has been changing to a less binding system, but at a snail’s pace. In general, the sense of prioritizing work over life still exists in Japan. National holidays, on the other hand, provide pressure-free no-work days. When everyone is taking time off, one doesn’t feel guilty for not contributing to the company.
One special week in which four national holidays are jam packed is formally called Oogata-renkyu (meaning large-scale consecutive holidays) and colloquially referred to as Golden Week. In daily conversation, most Japanese would use the English expression, Golden Week, since it sounds more exciting to them. The week begins with April 29th (Showa Day to commemorate Emperor Showa era), followed by May 3rd (Constitution Day), May 4th (Green Day to appreciate Nature), and May 5th (Children’s Day to hope for the bright future of children). They all are fixed date holidays. If one falls on Saturday or Sunday, the following weekday will be considered a substitute. Every year is different, but in general, if you take two to three paid vacation days as a bridge, you get yourself an “almost” guilt free 9 to 10-day vacation. For many Japanese, Golden Week is the longest time-off, so many families travel. The amount of travel involved in the week is like that of Thanksgiving holiday in the US. Not surprisingly, typical tourist destinations get extremely crowded, and you cannot avoid traffic jams heading toward popular spots. In some cities, even banks and hospitals might be closed during this week. If you are thinking of touring in Japan during Golden Week, you need to secure hotels and transportation or consider avoiding this week. (For the other collective vacation periods, read Obon and Shinnen articles.) My next article will begin to explore the secrets of Japanese longevity.
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連れて行く compound verb て-form of 連れる+行く=bring(to go)
君 you. A casual way of calling someone. It has a preppy sound to it. Milder tone thanおまえ. More casual than あなた
それが about that. Referring to the issue mentioned by a person with whom you're speaking.
遅くなっちゃって 遅い(adverbial form)＋なる(て-form)＋ちゃって（て-form of ちゃう-colloquial form of しまう） has regrettably become too late
結局 n. after all
ことになる has been decided(not your decision), compare to ことにするthat comes later in the conversation.
連休 n. consecutive holidays
早め n. earlier side. めadds tendency/side. 大きめ、少なめ
いなければ conditional form of いない
どこも どこ＋も everywhere
いっぱい adv. full
なんか p. listing an example. Here, us for example. Compare other usages of “なんか”.
張り切って て-form of 張り切る being enthusiastic
交通渋滞 n. traffic jam
まん前 n. right in front. まん中、真っ直ぐ
待ち遠しい イ-adj. looking forward to. Compare to 楽しみな
羨ましい イ-adj. envious
存分に ナ-adj. fully
来い v. imperative form of 来る
のんびり adv. Do things with relaxing mindset. It connects to a verb. Here, the word connects to 読む Read with relaxing mindset.
でも p. used to list an example. Compare to other usages of でも
ことにする I decided to (verb). Compare to ことになる
イライラする v.get annoyed
さ p. this ending particle adds several different tones. Here, it adds “taking it easy” attitude. Other tones include insistence and self-abandon