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You can count on it: Coffee and tea are brewing 24-7 at the Carlock Book Café. But you never know what fantastic things you may come across when you stop by! We will bring you something unique each month. So make the Carlock Cyber Book Café a place you often visit virtually, and in person.

Cream and Sugar

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Special of the Month:
Eric Kotani Interview

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Eric Kotani, is a remarkable man. Born in Japan, he has been working at NASA for 44 years! Link to the guest's Homepage

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Flavor of the Month: Japanese Holidays

In the last two decades, Japan has added three national holidays, to make a total of 15 national holidays.

Japan has now 15 national holidays. In 2009 the people of Japan enjoyed a bonus holiday, September 22nd, which fell between two other national holidays. A provision of Japan’s National Holiday Law stipulates that when a weekday is sandwiched by two public holidays, the in-between day becomes a bridge holiday.

Fifteen paid holidays a year. It’s a far cry for those of us working in the United States. Most American private businesses do not seem to have a set rule for paid holidays except for Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I have worked in several offices in the United States that observed anywhere between seven and ten holidays a year. I once worked for a company that generously granted 13 paid holidays. It was a manufacturing company. Japanese companies bank these holidays for employees and dispense them in three long holiday clusters around New Year’s Day (January), Golden Week (toward the end of April and into the first week of May), and the Obon Festival in mid-August. Each string of holidays is usually one week to ten days long.

Looking at Japan’s national holidays, I find some interesting characteristics. I notice two core values in its holiday system. One is people. Japan observes Coming of Age Day on the second Monday of January. All young people who turn 20 years old that year dress up, attend an official ceremony, go to a Shintō shrine to pray for prosperity, and—naturally!—have parties. Yes, that number is right. It’s 20, not 21, that is considered to be the age when one becomes an adult in Japan. May 5th is Children’s Day. The third Monday of September is Respect for the Aged Day. Working people are also recognized on Labor-Thanksgiving Day in November. All told, regardless of the age-group they belong to, everyone gets acknowledged some time during the year as being a vital part of society.

The other characteristic I find intriguing is that quite a few public holidays are connected to nature and the wellbeing of people. I don’t think it is common for a nation to observe both the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes as national holidays. I am aware that in times past both these days had strong religious connotations. But most young people today do not associate these days with religious rituals. They simply think these are the times when the days start getting longer or shorter. May 4th is Greenery Day. The third Monday in July is Marine Day. Some sources say that since Japan is surrounded by oceans, water is revered. The second Monday of October is Health and Sports Day. November 3rd is Culture Day.

Having said that much, I am impressed by how flexible Japan is in adding or modifying its national holidays over the years. In fact, it has been difficult for me to keep track of what has been happening to Japan’s holidays after I left the country in 1988. The Happy Monday System was established in 2000. This moved “capricious” holidays to Mondays. Coming of Age Day, which used to be January 15th, is now observed on the second Monday of January (as of 2000), Marine Day was moved from July 20th to the third Monday of July in 2003, Respect for the Aged Day, which was formerly observed on September 15th, has fallen on the third Monday of September since 2003, and Health and Sports Day was moved from October 10th to the second Monday of October in 2000. Adding bridge-holidays was another provision that gave people more days to relax. Some people may argue that the government had to take a leadership role to enforce the observance of holidays because the corporate culture of many Japanese businesses does not allow for employees to take vacations as freely as people in many European countries do. Nonetheless, I find the speed of these changes most fascinating.

Chizuko Jaggard


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