• Kyodo

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The municipal government of Chiba held an end-of-year ceremony for its workers on Friday, three days earlier than last year, so more government officials can take a longer holiday — as long as nine consecutive days for some, starting Saturday.

The city said that, despite the change, services for citizens will be available through Dec. 28 as usual.

Until last year, the municipal government employees held the ceremony to mark the end of their duty on Dec. 28. Starting this year, the optional holiday season starts on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 3.

Chiba Mayor Toshihiko Kumagai calls the move, aimed at helping bureaucrats balance work and life, “the happiness shift.”

Most government offices are closed from Dec. 28 through Jan. 3. They hold an end-of-year ceremony where the head of the municipality or the government agency gives a speech on their last working day.

According to the municipal government, about 40 percent of some 1,800 employees are expected to take a holiday on Dec. 28.

“I wasn’t feeling very comfortable about being the only one taking an early holiday, but now I can go snowboarding to Hokkaido with my husband,” said Eriko Hashimoto, 31, who works for the city’s tourism division.

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