The end of April and first week of May is the busiest time of the year in Japan, other than the New Year and Obon Festival, and also the most popular time to travel. This “week” is known throughout Japan as Golden Week. It is one of the best times of the year to be in Japan not only because most employees get an entire week off but also due to the string of back to back national holidays. During Golden Week, Japanese citizens will celebrate four major holidays, beginning with Showa Day on April 29th.
Showa Day was originally celebrated in honor of the Emperor Hirohito’s birthday, whose rule lasted from 1926 to 1989. The beginning of his rule in 1926 saw the beginning of the Showa Era, a time of great change for Japan. Following World War II, Emperor Hirohito was seen as the symbol of the new state and was highly respected and loved by his people.
Following his death in January of 1989, April 29th was converted to a different holiday, known as Greenery Day. However, in May 2005 the people decided April 29th should still be a day to honor their beloved Emperor, so April 29th was renamed Showa Day and Greenery Day was moved to May 4th.
Emperor Hirohito’s reign is associated with the rise of Japan as an industrial and economic power. Therefore, Showa Day is meant to encourage the people of Japan to take the time to reflect on their nation’s recovery from the turbulent times that made up Hirohito’s reign, including the rise of Fascism, World War II, and the post-war occupation. The holiday also serves to kickstart the upcoming week of festivities across Japan.