Workaholic Japan to go on unprecedented 10-day break


Japanese workers, known to be workaholics with frequent cases of “karoshi” or death by overworking, will from Saturday begin an unprecedented 10-day break with special days off combined with traditional Golden Week.

The Golden Week of holidays, held every year around the same dates, is the longest generalized annual work break for many Japanese and lasts about a week, reports Efe news.

However, this year several national holidays falling close to the celebrations marking the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the succession to the throne of his son Prince Naruhito have led to an unusual accumulation of non-working days.

“Summer holidays or the end of the year are usually longer than the Golden Week. It’s crazy that we have so many days now,” 24-year-old Eita Uchida, based in Tokyo, told Efe.

The 2019 Golden Week will begin on Saturday and the period of holiday will end on May 6.

The days off will include the Showa Era Day festivities (April 29), the abdication day (April 30), the ascension to the throne (May 1), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), the Greenery Day (May 4) and Children’s Day (May 5).

May 2 will be a holiday because, according to Japanese law, any day falling between two holidays becomes a day off. Monday – May 6 – will compensate for Sunday, a practice common in Japan.

During the Golden Week, schools and businesses are closed along with stock exchange, banks, hospitals and public offices.

At the same time, tourist spots, shopping centers, stations, airports and restaurants are expected to experience a huge rise in footfall.

Japan’s leading travel agency, JTB Corp, estimated that a record 24.7 million Japanese will take advantage of this unusual series of holidays to organize travels of more than two days, something that had been prevented by the strict Japanese labour law.

The company expects 6.6 million Japanese will travel to a foreign country, a seven per cent rise compared to the previous year, with Hawaii, Southeast Asia and Europe being the most popular destinations.

Famously workaholic Japan has already introduced a legislation to end the culture of long working hours.

The law limits overtime work to 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year in principle in the country where, according to the Labour Ministry, an estimated 190 deaths linked to overwork were reported in 2017.

However not everybody sees this Golden Week as a great opportunity.

“I don’t know what I’ll do with so many vacation days,” said Uchida, who like many other employees does not plan to leave the city in anticipation of crowds of travelers.

“Trains are always crowded with people these days. The same with foreign travel, everyone will go to other countries and so it is much more expensive to travel. That’s why I’m staying at home,” he explained.

Experts predict that this 10-day vacation will produce negative and positive effects on the country’s economy.

In a report, an economics researcher at the Japanese NLI Research Institute, Taro Saito, explained that the harmful consequences of stopping factories will cloud the benefits that the foreseeable increase in consumption may have.

Also, employees who charge by the hours and work in businesses that will close during the holidays will see a significant decrease in their income in April and May.