Thu, Apr 04, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Extra holidays are a dilemma for Japanese

AFP, TOKYO

For the emperor’s abdication on April 30, Japanese workers are to enjoy an unprecedented 10-day holiday as a rash of special days off combine with the traditional “Golden Week” next month, but not everyone is popping the champagne corks in famously workaholic Japan.

“To be honest, I don’t know how to spend the time when we are suddenly given 10 days of holidays,” 31-year-old finance worker Seishu Sato said. “If you want to go traveling, it’s going to be crowded everywhere and tour costs have surged... I might end up staying at my parents’ place.”

A survey by the Asahi Shimbun showed that 45 percent of Japanese “felt unhappy” about the long vacation, with only 35 percent saying they “felt happy.”

“I won’t be able to take days off. On the contrary, we’ll be super-busy,” 46-year-old pizzeria worker Takeru Jo said.

Others who have to work over the period complain about childcare.

“For parents in the service sector, the 10 days of holiday is a headache. After-school care, nurseries — everything is closed,” one disgruntled parent tweeted.

Many expect Tokyo and other large cities to empty as Japanese seize the rare opportunity for an overseas trip.

“Most of our tours for the holiday period were sold out last year,” said Hideki Wakamatsu, a spokesman for Nippon Travel Agency, adding that many others were on the waiting list.

Still, if people are curiously indifferent to the idea of extra holidays as a result of the emperor, the imperial family remains as popular as ever.

A poll by Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) found that almost no one would admit to a “feeling of antipathy” toward the emperor, with the vast majority saying they had a “positive feeling” or “respect.”

Only 22 percent voiced indifference in the NHK poll.

Open University of Japan politics professor Takeshi Hara said that much of this stemmed from the imperial couple’s “welfare-related activities.”

“Their attention to the elderly, the disabled and the victims of natural disasters — those ignored by politicians in the past three decades — has earned public support,” Hara said.

The fact that Emperor Akihito married his sweetheart, Michiko, “for love” — the first marriage for love in imperial history — has also boosted his standing, Hara said.

However, Hideto Tsuboi of the Kyoto-based International Research Center for Japanese Studies said that one of the main reasons for Akihito’s popularity lay in the fact that he was “conscious of the responsibility of the post-war generation” to reflect on Japan’s wartime atrocities.

On the 73rd anniversary of the end of World War II last year, Akihito reiterated “deep remorse” over the war and his continued wishes for peace.

While criticism of the emperor is virtually non-existent, there has been some opposition to the financing of some of the ceremonies surrounding the abdication and enthronement.

More than 200 Japanese citizens have filed a lawsuit against the government for planning to use taxpayers’ money to fund the ceremonies.

They say the ceremonies are religious in nature and funding them from the public purse breaks the constitutional principle separating religion and state.

They received unexpected backing from a member of the imperial household, Prince Akishino, the emperor’s youngest son, who is to become crown prince when his brother, Naruhito, ascends the throne.

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