Employees of major companies in Japan will get an average of 7.3 consecutive days off work during the Golden Week holiday season, according to a Labor Ministry survey released this week.

This is the second-longest average after the 7.5 days workers received in 1996, and the second time for the break to extend beyond one week since 1986, when the first such survey was taken, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

The ministry sent out questionnaires to 1,330 companies throughout Japan to inquire about holiday plans for three consecutive days or more for their employees in the one-month period from April 16 through May 15, which covers Golden Week starting April 28.

Of the 1,220 firms that responded, 86.1 percent said they have plans for consecutive days off, and the average turned out to be 7.6 days for manufacturers, up from 7.3 days last year, and 6.9 days for nonmanufacturers, up from 5.5 days last year.

In addition to the usual national holidays of April 29 and May 3, 4 and 5, many companies added May 1 and 2 as extra holidays, allowing their workers to take nine straight days off from April 28, a Saturday, through May 6, a Sunday. As April 29 is a Sunday, April 30 is a substitute holiday this year.

The longest break among the surveyed firms was 14 days.

Manufacturers, the largest percentage at 31.9 percent, said they will be closed for nine days, while 59.2 percent of nonmanufacturers said they will take seven days off.

“While the calendar has a lot to do with it, a rising number of firms are perhaps trying to give longer breaks to their employees,” a ministry official said.

Record visitors in, out

The numbers of both foreigners visiting Japan and Japanese traveling abroad reached record highs in 2000, according to the Japan National Tourist Organization.

The number of foreigners who visited Japan last year rose 7.2 percent from the previous year to 4.76 million.

Of those, South Koreans accounted for the most visitors for the second straight year, with the number increasing 12.9 percent to 1.06 million, topping the 1 million mark for the first time in three years, it said.

The number of tourists from other parts of Asia overall rose sharply, with the number from China up 19.3 percent to 352,000 and from the Philippines up 20.2 percent to 112,000, the organization reported.

Meanwhile, the number of Japanese who went abroad rose by 8.9 percent to 17.82 million, renewing a record high figure for the first time in three years, it said.

The association attributed the rise to a moderate economic recovery and also to an increased number of summer travelers who did not travel at the end of 1999 or the beginning of 2000 due to Y2K fears.

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