Japan marks Mountain Day for first time

Campers having a good time in a field in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture. With Mountain Day, Japan now has 16 public holidays a year.
Campers having a good time in a field in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture. With Mountain Day, Japan now has 16 public holidays a year.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • Japan yesterday marked its latest national holiday, the Mountain Day.

The Bill was first introduced in Parliament in 2014 following lobbying from the Japanese Alpine Club and other mountain-related groups, but took effect only this year.

Aug 11 was picked because the kanji (Chinese characters used in written Japanese) for "eight" looks a bit like the sides of a mountain. Also, the numeral 11 looks a bit like two trees, some told BBC News.

Japan's Law on National Holidays states that Mountain Day is expected to provide "opportunities to become familiar with mountains and be thankful for blessings from mountains".

The additional day off will be a boost to the economy, analysts told Bloomberg News.

The national holiday comes days before a week-long Obon festival period in which many workers take their summer vacation.

Mountain Day, coupled with Obon, will add about 820 billion yen (S$10.8 billion) in spending across the tourism, leisure, hospitality, transportation and retail industries, according to Mr Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.

"Japanese people aren't used to taking paid leave from work," said Mr Nagahama. "Even if they do take time off, they don't really know how to make use of it. Mountain Day will encourage people take a longer vacation and go outside, which will surely boost consumption."

But only 9.6 per cent of 500 people surveyed online recently said they want to go to the mountains, reported Japan Times. About 60 per cent said they "want to rest at home" on Mountain Day.

With Mountain Day, Japan now has 16 public holidays a year, the highest tally among the Group of Eight economies.

Among its national holidays, 10 are either unique or rare among countries. Examples include Greenery Day for communing with nature; Marine Day for giving thanks to the ocean's bounty; and Health and Sports Day to honour the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Japan marks Mountain Day for first time'. Print Edition | Subscribe