Silver Week to make up for less than lustrous summer?

September 18th, 2009 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

So much time, so few things to spend it on

So much time, so few things to spend it on

On your mark, get set, spend money!

Silver Week officially starts whenever you get off work today, and according to various media reports, the government estimates that the average Japanese household will spend ¥37,000 during the special five-day holiday period, though I’m not sure if this amount is above what they would spend during a normal five-day period incorporating a weekend or includes what they would normally spend.

It’s no secret that the holiday was concocted with stimulus in mind, which means it had to be planned a fairly long time ago. But the timing seems opportune since consumption this past summer was disappointing due to the cooler weather (less beer and air conditioner sales). There was a slight uptick in travel toward the end of August but not as much as usual, and since travel costs are cheaper in Sept. anyway, it should make up at least partly for that shortfall.

Of course, what’s principally strange about Silver Week, which uses a new law to append national holidays onto weekends for maximum leisure effectiveness, is the notion that Japanese workers have to be told to relax by state mandate. Tellingly, the miscellaneous day that falls between the already designated holidays Respect for the Aged Day and Autumn Equinox Day is given the generic but nonetheless official name of Kokumin no Kyujitsu (citizens holiday). As of this morning, Japan had 16 national holidays, more than any other developed country, simply because the business culture is such that employers are loath to give their people time off (though most regular full-time workers are entitled to paid leave) and employees are either too scared to ask for time off (how will it look when job evaluation time rolls around?) or would just prefer working.

The most famous drawback of this system is that when everybody takes off at the exact same time, traffic increases to standstill proportions and popular leisure spots become so crowded they generate more impatience and annoyance than peace of mind and refreshment.

Anyway, I’m sure people will have a good time if they decide to go nowhere. Think of all the beer you can drink for ¥37,000.

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