Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko are seen on a summer day. Japan celebrates Mountain Day, the newest public holiday, on Thursday. | ISTOCK
A third of Japan unaware of Mountain Day as holiday makes its debut
Nearly a third of people have never heard of Mountain Day, according to a new survey, as the newest official public holiday is set to be celebrated for the first time on Thursday.
In 2014, the Diet established Aug. 11 as Mountain Day to be observed from this year, raising the annual tally of official public holidays in Japan to 16. The legislation to create the new holiday was submitted by a group of lawmakers and enacted with support from both the ruling camp and the opposition.
For years, the Japanese Alpine Club and other mountain-related groups had lobbied for the bill, saying Japan needs to celebrate its peaks.
The revised Law on National Holidays says that Mountain Day is designed to provide “opportunities to become familiar with mountains and be thankful for blessings from mountains.”
But a recent online survey of 500 people ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, conducted by Tokyo-based Japan Weather Association, has shown that just 68 percent of those polled said they had heard of the new holiday. By age group, young people were more familiar, with 80 percent of those in their 20s saying they knew about it, while only 62 percent of respondents in their 60s did.
The company compared the recognition of Mountain Day with Marine Day, sometimes translated as Ocean Day, which is observed on the third Monday of July. The results showed that 90.2 percent of those polled were aware of Marine Day, which debuted in 1996.
Japan is blessed with an abundance of mountainous regions, and mountain trekking or hiking is a popular activity, especially among seniors.
But 59.4 percent of the people surveyed said they “want to rest at home” on Mountain Day. Only 12 percent said they want to go traveling, and an even smaller 9.6 percent said they want to go to the mountains.
Lawmakers picked Aug. 11 as the best date for Mountain Day, as many municipal governments had voluntarily set the date as a day to observe their mountains. Some had chosen the date, because eight, written in kanji, resembles the shape of a mountain, observers say, adding that the number 11 also looks like two standing trees.
In recent decades, the number of holidays has steadily grown in Japan, which is notorious for its long working hours.
But as many Japanese don’t take long vacations, they most often register those holidays as extra days off to be tacked onto their weekends.
With the addition of Mountain Day, Japan’s 16 official holidays will be the most among the Group of Eight major powers, and double the number observed in Britain.
Unlike Britain, where many of the days off are known as “bank holidays,” each of Japan’s holidays celebrate something unique. They include Children’s Day (May 5), Constitution Day (May 3) and Labor Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23).
However, specific names for holidays don’t necessary mean many people truly appreciate their meanings or act in accordance with their spirit.
This is partly due to the fact that some of the holidays — such as Coming of Age Day, celebrated on the second Monday of January — are not tied to specific dates and have been moved around to make weekends longer.