Friday, August 12, 2016


Those who are in the know about Japanese work hours would be aware of just how time Japanese employees – the “salary-men” – spend at it. Mandatory overtime and working weekends are just the tip of the iceberg for Japan’s private sector. Perhaps the supreme irony here is that the country also happens to have the largest number of official non-working holidays in a year compared to its fellow G8 world powers. Heck, they pretty much cemented its record with their newest public holiday held last August 11 Thursday, and on every August 11 in the years to come: Mountain Day.

This holiday, according to The Japan Times, was established by the Japanese Diet, or legislature, back in 2014 at the lobbying of the Japanese Alpine Club and its associated mountaineering groups in the country. Its first celebration was set for this year. And for those who are wondering why August 11 was chosen as the date for the holiday, the explanation was rather picturesque. August is the eighth month of the year, and the number “8” written in kanji (and read as “hachi”) happens to look like a stylistically drawn mountain with two slopes, while eleven (“11”) shares a similar but very simplified shape as the kanji for “forest”. A more practical reason for the chosen month is that it has no nationwide public holiday in it.

Celebrating an occasion called Mountain Day seems like a natural fit for Japan. The Japanese archipelago has its land surface area dominated by mountain peaks and mountain ranges due to its location on the edges of tectonic plates. On the lighter side Japan has certainly been blessed with magnificent geographic elevations, like the iconic cone of Mount Fuji. On the other hand, this has put the country in a difficult place by making it vulnerable to earthquakes (and tsunamis) as well as volcanic eruptions.

Furthermore, the rugged mountainous terrain of Japan’s interior has forced the Japanese to squeeze themselves into the flatlands next to the sea like Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. Still, the people are appreciative of their mountains and would like to think they are unique among developed nations for having such a close bond with nature.

Which is why a survey by the Japan Weather Association was surprised to learn that even after two years of advance information, just about 68% of Japanese were even aware of the new holiday. Of these, 59% would prefer to take their day off at home, only 12% were interested in travelling for Mountain Day, and only 10% were planning to go see those mountains. One could probably blame the Japanese work grind for the lack of movement, as this Mountain day did not fall next to the weekend.

Photo Credit to