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How Annual Leave in Japan Work

Japan is known for its hard-working ethics, but they are actually quite generous with annual leaves. This article will explain how many leave days you will have every year and other paid leave, such as public holidays and family-related occasions.

Annual Leave in Japan

All employees in Japan, full-time or part-time workers, are entitled to have annual paid leave. It’s called “yūkyū” (有休 ゆうきゅう). The status and how long you have worked in the company will determine how many leave days you receive. The number of leave days will increase along with the length of the service.

There are two conditions for claiming annual leave.

  1. You have to work continuously in the same company for at least 6 months. Every year after that, you will receive one to two more leave days.

  2. You must have been present for 80% of the working hours.

Basically, the employees can claim your paid leave anytime. They can also pile it up and take consecutive days off. However, they have to notify the employer or HR team. If they get approval, then they are clear to go. The companies have different rules about how far in advance you should send a notice. It's best to send it early, so your coworkers are prepared to cover your absence.

Even though annual leave is a worker's right, the employer has the right to reject it for valid reasons. For example, the employer may ask the employees to delay their leave if there are worker shortages during the high season. Not compromising with your coworkers will cause a strain on your relationship and reputation in the office.

Annual leave in Japan cannot be cashed out. This regulation is issued so that employees have to use their rest time. In case of termination, all unused leave must be paid in cash to the employees.

How to Calculate Annual Leave for Full-time Employees

Full-time workers get ten to twenty leave days based on how long they have worked in the company.

How to Calculate Annual Leave for Part-time Employees

Besides the length of service, annual leave for part-time workers is also determined by how many days they work per week. For example, part-time employees that work 4 days a week get seven to fifteen leave days.

Public Holidays

Japan has 16 public holidays. Most offices in Japan close during public holidays and allow the employees to take a vacation unless they work in the tourism industry. These holidays are spread over the year. Technically, it can be considered paid leave since it won't affect your monthly salary.

List of public holidays in Japan:

  • Japanese New Year (January 1)

  • Coming of Age Day (Second Monday in January)

  • National Foundation Day (February 11)

  • The Emperor's Birthday (February 23)

  • Vernal Equinox Day (March 21)

  • Shōwa Day (April 29)

  • Constitution Memorial Day (May 3)

  • Greenery Day (May 4)

  • Children’s Day (May 5)

  • Marine Day (Third Monday in July)

  • Mountain Day (August 11)

  • Respect for the Aged Day (Third Monday of September)

  • Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23)

  • Sports Day (Second Monday of October)

  • Culture Day (November 3)

  • Labor Thanksgiving Day (November 23)

There are four holidays that take place closely or consecutively, also known as Golden Week in Japan. They are Shōwa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. Many employees use their annual leave during this period to take the whole week off.

Koinobori, carp-shaped windsocks, over the river to celebrate Children’s Day (Picture: Wix)

Others Paid Leave

Besides the annual leave and national holiday, employees are also entitled to family-related leaves, such as child care, wedding, and mourning.

  • Child Care Leave

Both maternity and paternity leave are regulated by Japanese law. Maternity leave includes 6 weeks before the expected birth date to 8 weeks postnatal. Paternity leave is given 4 weeks after childbirth. After maternity and paternity periods end, parents can take child care leave up to one year later.

  • Wedding

Newly married couples can take five days' leave for their honeymoon.

  • Mourning

You can take up to five days of leave for a nuclear family death and three days for an extended family death. However, if you are the one who manages the funeral service, you will receive two additional days.

Expired Annual Leave

Unfortunately, you cannot pile up your annual leave for more than two years. Some companies even set the expiration date after one year. Make sure to check with your employer so you don’t lose your entitled vacations.

Sick Leave

Sick leave does not exist in Japan. The employees usually use their annual leave if they want to rest. If you cannot claim the annual leave, you will be considered absent and don't get paid for your days off. This is one of the reasons why people like to save their annual leave in case they get sick. However, they have to be careful to not keep it until the expiration date. Use your annual leave wisely!

Japanese Work Culture about Taking Leave

Based on the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare 2019 survey, workers in Japan only take 52.4% of the entitled paid leave. They don’t use their annual leave due to the overwork glorification and group-oriented culture.

Japanese people are well known for their hard-working culture, to the point that many of them see overwork as a good thing. The aftermath is people feel afraid to leave the office on time and take days off. They are scared that taking leave may make them look lazy. The other reason is people feel guilty for troubling their coworkers to cover their absence.

The Japanese government attempted to overcome this issue. By law, employees who are entitled to 10 or more days of paid annual leave should take at least 5 days per year. If the employer fails to make their employees use their leave, they will get a penalty. The progress may be slow, but Japan constantly tries to improve the work-life balance for its labor.


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