Four national holidays occur over the span of one week.
April 29 Showa Day: the birthday of the Showa era emperor (Hirohito)
May 3 Constitution Memorial Day: The Japanese Constitution, adopted on May 3, 1947, is often called the Peace Constitution and was largely drafted by MacArthur’s staff. Of note, Article 9 renounces war “as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
May 4 Green(ery) Day: this used to be celebrated on April 29th, the birthday of the Showa emperor, and is so designated because he loved plants and nature. It was changed to May 4 in 1996 (in effect from 1997) to create a block of 3 consecutive national holidays.
May 5 Children’s Day: Even though this day has been designated as Children’s Day since 1948 and local communities organize events to honor all children, it is mostly celebrated as Boys’ Day in families with sons with displays of kabuto (samurai helmet) and koinobori(carp flags). Girl’s Day is celebrated on March 3rd.
April 29th is not part of Golden Week, but the day off last week set a relaxed pace at the office until the weekend leading into the 5-day break. Because May 3rd fell on a Sunday this year, the next working day(Wednesday) became a day off to give us the benefit of the holiday. I appreciate the time off, but because of my job status I am not paid for holidays.
All this left me with five consecutive days off for which I had no plans… I had dreams of traveling to South Korea or southern Kyushu, but I heard so many horror stories of crowds and traffic jams, I decided to hang around town and take a trip later. I watched the crowds and traffic jams on the news and it seems that anyone who had international travel plans was under intense scrutiny because of Swine Flu. All teachers and school employees in this district who had plans to travel outside Japan during Golden Week were required to report their itineraries to the Board of Education.
This is how I spent my Golden Week: I spent a fair amount of time reviewing kanji that were in my “already learned” pile. I had forgotten about 10% of them. I am now up to number 905, and am finding I can write with less effort now and recognize more words in the newspaper and can often figure out headlines. I started reading essays in an annotated reader, Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Writers and am gaining confidence in my reading ability. I know it will take a while longer before I can read an unannotated text easily, but I know have made a lot of progress this year. My next goal is to start writing more in Japanese..writing in English is so hard for me that the extra barrier of language makes it a formidable goal. Maybe start with memos?
On Sunday we went to a bar-b-cue organized by an old friend; in addition to incredible “until-a-few-minutes-ago alive” seafood, we had several hours of live music by lots of local musicians. The weather was great and we were outdoors all day.
So I’ve been here almost a full year now. It has been 20 years since my last spring in Japan and I have especially enjoyed the past month or so because of the great weather and succession of flowers, plum blossoms, magnolia, nanohana, cherry blossoms, wisteria, azaleas and it continues…right now the fragrance of citrus blossoms in our neighborhood is intoxicating.
I put in few hours weed whacking our largest field and am hoping to get in some flowers and pumpkin starts this weekend. I am getting used to this slower pace of life.
Jiro is back in his studio full-time working on his next series.
Back at work today(Thursday) after Golden Week, the morning greeting went something like, “Welcome back after the long vacation. We have two days until we have two more days off.”