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Childrens Day highlights Golden Week

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2012-04-27

Schools, banks, government offices and many businesses are being shuttered this weekend and all next week as Okinawans embrace a week chock full of holidays that caps with Childrenís Day Saturday, May 5th.

Golden Week is celebrated both in mainland Japan and Okinawa, with fun and frolic the operative words to describe activities by the vast majority of islanders. It begins Sunday, the birthday of former Japanese emperor Showa. Itís the first of the holidays over the coming week, with a legal holiday Monday, Constitution Day on Thursday, Greenery Day on Friday and Childrenís Day on Saturday. In terms of festivities and fun though, itís Childrenís Day that kicks off with Koinobori events this weekend that run all through next week.

Constitution Memorial Day, Kenpo Kinen-bi, marks the day in 1947 Japanís new constitution went into effect. Before moving forward, double back to May 1st which, although not a legal holiday, is treated as one by most companies and businesses. May Day is popular with Japanese, because it helps make Golden Week the longest vacation time of the year. Greenery Day, Midori no hi, is Friday. Until 2006, it was celebrated on April 29th, the birthday of former Emperor Showa. Now, itís been structured as the ďin between the holidays holidayĒ bridging the gap between Constitution Day and Childrenís Day.

Childrenís Day is Kodomo no hi, before the war known as Boysí Day, a day when Japanese pray for their children to grow up healthy. Historically, itís also been a day to honor sons, and Japanese families with boys hang colorful carp streamers, Koinobori, outside their homes, and often display May dolls inside. Golden Week got itís name decades ago, when the term was coined by movie theater operators after experiencing the birth of the new holidays in 1948. As the story goes, Golden Week is the perfect opportunity to take in some golden movies.

Koinobori captures everyoneís fancy, with the streamers dotting the landscape and mini-festivals staged to celebrate. These wind socks are made by drawing carp patterns on paper, cloth or other nonwoven fabric. They are then allowed to flutter in the wind. They are also known as satsuki-nobori.

Childrenís Day Festivals will take place across the islands of Okinawa throughout the week, with the primary events on Childrenís Day itself. The Seamenís Club Naha is celebrating the day with a special set of menus just for kids, and has activities for kids, too. An afternoon session 2:30 p.m. ~ 4:30 p.m., and an evening session 5:30 p.m. ~ 7:30 p.m. will have everything from story times to face painting, fingernails decorating, balloons, and music. Best of all, everything except the food is free.

Itís a week where work comes to a screeching halt across this island nation, and everyone finds a place to go on vacation. Itís nearly impossible to find a flight, train or bus ticket available anywhere in the country during Golden Week, unless one made the reservations months in advance. Donít expect to find any empty hotel rooms either; tour agencies say Japanís booked solid. The demand for Golden Week vacation destinations is so high, Japan and Okinawa canít handle it. Instead, foreign sites including Thailand, Guam, Saipan, Hawaii and even the American West Coast benefit.

Businesses across the country begin closing a dayóor even twoóbefore the holiday week begins on Sunday, and will not start settling back to normal until a week from next Monday. Apart from the holidays themselves, businesses grant employees liberal vacation opportunities, with the average being about 4.5 days. Add it all up, and Golden Week is golden indeed, with as many as 11 days off.

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