Japan has a lot !!! of national holidays. In addition to the Obon days in August (Obon is the time of rememberance for deceased family), and the long New Year period at the beginning of the year, there are an additional 14 national holidays. The government enacted a law that says when a holiday falls on a Sunday then the next working day will be a holiday. Since this is usually Monday it means there are quite a few 3-day weekends in Japan. In addition, any day that falls between two other national holidays also becomes a holiday. This week all of these holidays created two longer periods of time off for a lot of folks during Golden Week (April / May) and "Silver Week" (in September).
With the government also enacting reduced expressway tolls on the weekends and holidays it meant a whole bunch of people were on the highways over those long periods, as well as many weekends, creating traffic jams that can be as long as 50 kilometers (30 miles). Train & plane companies have taken a hit on fares also since the maximum highway toll (once you're out of the city) is 1,000 yen. This means a family can travel much cheaper by car than by train or plane, even if it does mean sitting in that car for many, many hours. At least the expressways here have pretty good service areas with restaurants, snack shops, clean toilets, and gasoline stations.
Today was another of those holidays: Culture Day (Bunka No Hi). From Wikipedia:
"This national holiday was established in 1948. It commemorates the November 3, 1946 announcement of the Constitution. It is recognized as a day to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture. (N.B.: Although prior to the establishment of this holiday in 1948, November 3 was also a national holiday called Meiji-setsu commemorating the birthday of Emperor Meiji, the two holidays are ostensibly unrelated."
From what I could see - as I sat in traffic on the local roads - most of the "culture" people were getting today has to do with shopping. The number of cars on the road around Kichijoji (just a few kilometers up the road) was pretty tremendous & in some areas it just wasn't moving any faster than the proverbial snail.
Two more national holidays to go this year; Labor Thanksgiving Day (which is just before the American Thanksgiving Day) and The Emperor's Birthday (and believe it or not, Christmas is NOT a national holiday in Japan).
So whattya waitin' for - today is Culture Day - go out & get yourself some culture!