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Japan Is Getting a Rare 10-Day Vacation. Not Everyone's Happy

Extended break starts Saturday to celebrate ascension of Naruhito to emperor
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2019 1:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – The "Reiwa" era is nearly upon Japan, and big plans are afoot to commemorate it. As Crown Prince Naruhito prepares to ascend to emperor status on May 1, taking the throne from his father, Akihito, who's abdicating, what Reuters calls an "unprecedented" 10-day holiday is on the docket, set to start Saturday and run through May 6. And although schools, government offices, banks, and various businesses will be shuttered during that time, the hiatus from regular life is actually expected to add a needed jolt to the Japanese economy: Due to the "festive mood" and lots of people traveling, hotels, restaurants, breweries, and retail could all reap big rewards from the extended event. More on what else to expect:

  • A royal primer. Bloomberg offers a Q&A on what the abdication and coronation ceremonies will entail, and why Akihito is stepping down in the first place.
  • Not thrilled: Not everyone in Japan is in a celebratory mood. In fact, some locals are "aghast" at the prospect of such a long break, per the Guardian, which notes nonsalaried workers are worried about lost wages, residents are concerned about overcrowded tourist spots, and others are simply wondering how they're going to while the hours away for 10 days straight. In an Asahi newspaper poll, 45% of respondents were "unhappy" with the break and only 35% were "happy."
  • Good time for getaways. Reuters notes that a bunch of national holidays already fall around this time of year—the country's so-called "Golden Week"—and that the addition of the Naruhito coronation simply piles on to that. The travel industry in Japan is already feeling the first effects, with the South China Morning Post noting sold-out travel packages and completely booked hotels. "People so rarely get a 10-day break that they are really taking advantage," says a rep for travel agency JTB Group.

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  • Retail extravaganza. Department stores and other vendors are planning on offering commemorative memorabilia with "Reiwa" imprints, and some of the items are veering into the symbolic. One notable example: small $10 cans filled with ... nothing, meant to represent "the air of an outgoing era," per the Telegraph.
  • Fretting traders. Those who keep close tabs on the stock market are also concerned, as Japan will be missing six entire trading sessions—"the longest market closure since the end of World War II," per Bloomberg.
  • Akihito's adieu. The departing emperor spoke in December about his legacy, and there was one theme in particular he focused on, per Deutsche Welle and the AP: peace. "It gives me deep comfort that the current era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan," he said then in a rare recorded address.
  • Male-centric royal rules scrutinized. Maclean's looks more closely at "the fragile underpinnings of the world's oldest monarchy"—specifically, a 1947 law that dictates only men can take the throne. A recent poll, however, shows a shift in public opinion, with more than three-quarters of respondents saying they'd be good with a female emperor.
(Read more Japan stories.)

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