After a long hiatus, I’m back! And back just in time to take another holiday! Most people have heard of Golden Week, that glorious holiday in the Spring where you get one full week or as close to one full week as humanly possible to not work and just enjoy the beauty of Japan. Well, there is a similar holiday chain, Silver Week, in September that sometimes results in that same glorious string of a full week off.
Respect for the Aged Day
This one seems pretty straightforward, and that’s because it is! Most people will take a little road trip to their grandparents, parents, or other important elders in their life and spend the holiday celebrating them and everything they’ve done for the youths. This became an official public holiday in 1966. Silver has a nice connection to this holiday as well.
In Japanese, they use the actual word “Silver” (on loan from English) for the holiday’s name, not the Japanese word for silver. Silver has connections to the loss of color in hair we experience as we get older, and to a coveted item you receive upon hitting 100 years old. In Japan, starting back in 1963, if you lived to 100, the Japanese Government sent you a silver sake cup in recognition of your longevity. Nowadays, with an aging population, you can see why this might get… expensive for the government. They’ve reduced the size of the cups, but in 1963, they only handed out 153. In 2014, they handed out close to 30,000 out of the eligible 32,000 citizens. What was once sterling silver is now plate silver for all!
Quiz time: What holiday used to celebrate the past emperors and the imperial family? Why, that’s Shunki Koreisai (秋季皇霊祭), of course! It used to be a holiday right around the equinox, important in Shintoism, dating back to 1878. What happened to Shunki Koreisai, you may ask? Well, after Japan’s loss in World War II, a lot of things were changed in its constitution to prevent it from radicalizing or reaching such expanses as it had in the early 20th century. One such measure was to separate religion and the state because of the prominence and influence of Hirohito during the war as both a political and religious figurehead. As such, this holiday was rebranded as the Autumnal Equinox in 1948 and a new modern tradition was born!
So what do you do to celebrate? Well, most families will clean up the family grave site, visit a shrine or temple, and have a nice autumn picnic. There are a few traditional treats that incorporate sweet red beans (azuki), such as ohagi (botamochi). Nothing wrong with paying your respects and enjoying the breeze!
Kokumin no Kyujitsu (Citizen’s Holiday)
Sadly, this year, Respect for the Aged Day and the Autumnal Equinox are sandwiched right next to each other (the 21st and 22nd respectively), which means there is no Citizen’s Holiday this year. If, for example, there is an extra day sandwiched between these two holidays, the government awards that day the special Citizen’s Holiday distinction and it too becomes a holiday where most don’t have to work!
To get a true Silver Week, it needs to be a five-day holiday to match its Golden counterpart. You don’t get the perfect temporal storm for a Silver Week often: You need Respect for the Aged Day to fall on a Monday and the Autumnal Equinox to fall on a Wednesday, making that Tuesday a Citizen’s Holiday and, when combined with Saturday and Sunday, you get a five-day holiday!
Many websites can show you when those are. For example, the next five-day true Silver Week is… 2026, a full 11 years after the last true Silver Week way back in 2015. Regardless of how many days you get off, don’t forget to thank a silver-haired elder in your life and take time to enjoy the balance of the equinox!