The Diet on Friday established Mountain Day as a public holiday starting in 2016, raising the annual tally to 16 as the government looks for ways to get the nation’s famously hard-working populace out of the office.
Legislation to observe the new holiday every Aug. 11 was enacted with support from both the ruling camp and the opposition.
It came after the Japanese Alpine Club and other mountain-related groups lobbied for the bill, saying that Japan — where Shinto’s animistic beliefs have shaped the culture — needs to celebrate its peaks.
At the other end of the spectrum, Marine Day, sometimes translated as Ocean Day, is observed on the third Monday of July.
The legislation for Mountain Day states that it is designed to share “opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains.”
A large chunk of Japan’s land is mountainous, and walking or trekking is a popular pastime, particularly among seniors.
The mountains also bless Japan with excellent skiing throughout the winter, with foreign visitors raving about the quality of the snow.
Once Mountain Day takes effect in two years, Japan will have 16 official holidays, the most among the Group of Eight major powers, and double the number observed in Britain.
And, unlike Britain, where many of the days off are known only as “bank holidays,” each of Japan’s holidays celebrate something specific. They include Children’s Day, Coming of Age Day, Constitution Day and National Foundation Day.
The number of holidays has grown steadily in recent decades.
This is at least in part an effort to tame the tendency, particularly prevalent among office workers, to put in long hours and not take time off, with observers saying the reluctance is borne of an unwillingness to burden colleagues with extra work. Japan also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
While Europeans tend to take long summer vacations, in which they will use up two or more weeks of their annual leave at once, many Japanese limit their time away to extended weekends.