An “OL” in Japan refers to an “Office Lady” and is not considered derogatory.

Carp streamers celebrating Boy’s Day.

Japanese people are known as some of the most diligent, hard-working people on earth. But every year from April 29th until May 5th or 6th, Golden Week arrives and nearly everyone in Japan takes a vacation. If you do business in Japan or want to travel to Japan, this particular week is the worst possible time to do so.

It goes like this:

  • April 29 – Until 2006 this previously was celebrated as みどりの日 midori no hi, Greenery Day. Now it is 昭和の日 Showa no hi, for Showa Emperor Hirohito’s birthday. On this day the Japanese are supposed to remember the 63 years of hardships of the Showa Era.
  • May 3 – 憲法記念日 kenpou kinebi. A day commemorating the 1947 ratification of the post-war constitution.
  • May 4 – みどりの日 midori no hi. Moved from April 29th, it’s an environmental holiday to enjoy all the gifts of nature. The original April 29th holiday was created because the former emperor loved plants and nature.
  • May 5 – こどもの日 kodomo no hi. Although kodomo translates as child, this day is actually considered The Boy’s Festival. Families pray for the success of their sons, display samurai dolls and fly koi streamers.

During this time, airfare is at it’s highest, hotel’s charge the most and every destination is completely packed with people.

Many businesses completely shut down, leaving not even a skeleton crew.  In America, especially in retail, we’ve gotten used to the idea that shops stay open nearly 365 days a year, so it can be quite a culture shock to find out how serious the Japanese take Golden Week.

What do you think?  Is the idea of nearly all businesses shutting down for a week a good idea or not?