Golden Week In Japan: The Importance of Showa Day

by Krystina Quintana

Regardless of where you travel, you'll find that each culture and destination has its own set of holidays and traditions. Japan, in particular, has many interesting and unique holidays that aid in remembering its history. Golden Week includes some of the most important holidays and tradition-based activities in Japan. Especially during the first part of the celebration, when Showa Day is observed.

What Is Golden Week?

This week is one of the most popular celebrations ranking at the top with New Year and Obon week. Golden Week in Japan consists of four national holidays. Golden Week holiday in Japan starts with a bang with Showa Day. Then, the holidays continue with Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day.

Each holiday correlates with a different event. Japanese Showa Day lands on the former emperor Showa's birthday. Constitution Day celebrates when the new constitution was put in place. Greenery Day revolves around nature. Finally, Children's Day – is a long-held holiday where parents hang paper carps and samurai dolls while they pray for success for their sons.

If you’re wondering why this week is known as Golden Week – it correlates with a filmmaker in the 1900s who noticed a large boom in business during the national holidays that occur this week. For some reason, many businesses see an increase in sales during Golden Week. The name stuck, and it has been referred to by this name ever since.

What Is Showa Day?

Japanese Showa Day is a specific holiday to celebrate Emperor Hirohito (also known as Emperor Showa) – a former emperor of the Showa era. The Showa meaning (Japanese translation) is shining peace/enlightened peace, and it's used to describe how Emperor Hirohito ruled during his time in power.

Showa Day is often mentioned in connection to reflection. Starting on April 29 (the former emperor's birthday) and finishing with Children's Day, Golden Week pushes those who celebrate this holiday period to focus on the past and future.

In Japan, it’s common to celebrate the current emperor’s birthday as a holiday. Because of this, Showa Day is on April 29. Even after Hirohito's successor (Akihito) took over, Showa Day remained at the end of April. Don't worry; Akihito's birthday is still celebrated in December.

Originally, Japanese Showa Day and Greenery Day fell on the same day (April 29). Eventually, the government decided they should be considered two separate holidays. Now Greenery Day falls on May 4 each year and helps celebrate Hirohito's love for plants.

What Food Is Eaten On Showa Day?

One main food is connected to Showa Day – unagi, aka eel. This food was former Emperor Showa's favorite food. Many people remember him by enjoying any unagi-filled dish.

If you still want to celebrate without eating eel, try Bonchi Uni Rice Crackers (6 Packs) or Iwatsuka Seika Otona no Otsumami: Ebi Crunch (1 Bag). These snacks are seafood-related without using an eel flavor or eel pieces.

Why Is Showa Day Celebrated? Why Is Emperor Hirohito Connected?

The main reason behind celebrating this national holiday is to reflect on and remember the Showa era. This particular period was rough for the people of Japan as it included World War ii, foreign occupation, and more. During this period, there were also positive events, like the Japan Olympics, which encouraged Japan to rebuild after the war.

While Emperor Hirohito is noted as an immediate connection to this holiday, this holiday encourages people to consider all the events during the Showa period.

This holiday celebration is not one filled with festivities and music. Instead, people take time to learn about the Showa era by visiting museums. It's a calmer holiday that businesses and companies also observe so residents can enjoy a work-free week. Many Japanese people choose to use this break to spend some time in tranquility with their loved ones. Or engage in more peaceful activities like being outside in nature.

Those who stay in the city spend time at museums, lectures, and other educational opportunities where Showa Era is discussed. Here are some activities that you might spend your time doing during Showa Day:

  • Spending the day at local shrines
  • Picnicking nearby cherry blossom trees
  • Visiting Musashino Imperial Mausoleum (Emperor Hirohito’s resting place)
  • Attending a public lecture on Showa Day

If you have the chance to attend Golden Week (including Showa Day) in Japan, you’ll learn about a tumultuous part of Japan’s history. Reflecting on this part of history shows how resilient Japan and its people are. Of course, not everyone can travel to Japan during this holiday. If that's the case, you can also celebrate at home by researching the Showa Era’s events and enjoying a Japanese snack box.