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Mega holiday Golden Week grips Okinawa

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-05-05

Schools, banks, government offices and many businesses are shuttered this week as Okinawans embrace a week chock full of holidays.

Golden Week is celebrated both in mainland Japan and Okinawa, with fun and frolic the operative works to describe activities by the vast majority of islanders. It began Saturday, the birthday of former Japanese emperor Showa. The holiday has been called Green Day, Midorino-hi, in appreciation of nature.

But itís changing again.

Green Day will move to May 4th next year, with April 29th being renamed Showa Day. The government wanted to keep Golden Week intact, leading to the change.

Yesterday was Constitution Memorial Day, Kenpou Kinen-bi. Today is Kokumin no kyujitsu, the Between Day, a holiday between two other legal holidays.

Constitution Memorial Day was created in honor of the Japanese constitution that went into effect May 3, 1947.

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.

Childrenís Day is Friday. Kodomo no hi was formerly known as Boysí Day, and itís a day when parents 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.

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 day ― or even two ― before the holiday week begins, and will not start settling back to normal until Monday or Tuesday of next week. 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 10 days off.

In Naha, the Haari Festival is in progress, with the race finals tomorrow at the cityís Aja Wharf. Several dozen haari boat teams comprised of 14 racers will challenge each other in categories that include military and childrensí races. The finals of the 32nd Annual Haari Festival are set for mid-afternoon tomorrow.

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