Holidays and Leave
Holidays and leave are likely treated differently in Japan than what you may be used to. You may find your co-workers rarely use their paid leave or reserve it only for when they are ill. While you are not under the same obligations and are well within your rights to take any paid leave as stipulated in your contract, be thoughtful about how and when you request it.
Public Holidays 2021
The following dates are public holidays during 2021. Your school may be closed on additional days, but always check to see if nenkyu is required.
- January 1st, 2021 ー New Year’s Day
- January 11th, 2021 ー Coming of Age Day (Second Monday in January)
- February 11th, 2021 ー National Foundation Day
- February 23rd, 2021 ー The Emperor’s Birthday
- March 20th, 2021 ー Vernal Equinox Day
- April 29th, 2021 ー Showa Day
- May 3rd, 2021 ー Constitution Memorial Day (‘Golden Week’)
- May 4th, 2021 ー Greenery Day (‘Golden Week’)
- May 5th, 2021 ー Children’s Day (‘Golden Week’)
- July 22nd, 2021 ー Marine Day (Date changed for 2021)
- July 23rd, 2021 ー Sports Day (Date changed for 2021)
- August 8th, 2021 ー Mountain Day (Date changed for 2021)
- August 9th, 2021 ー Mountain Day (Observed)
- September 20th, 2021 ー Respect for the Aged Day (Third Monday in September)
- September 23rd, 2021 ー Autumn Equinox Day
- November 3rd, 2021 ー Culture Day
- November 23rd, 2021 ー Labor Thanksgiving Day
※ Christmas is NOT a paid holiday in Japan – you will need to take nenkyu should you wish to have this day off.
Paid Leave (Nenkyū— 年休)
In order to take paid leave, contact your contracting organization and/or school. A supervisor is allowed to refuse permission to take time off if they feel that your absence will interfere with smooth work operations (for example, special lessons, ceremonies, or other work-related activities). Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask well in advance of your vacation and before you book tickets or accommodation that cannot be easily altered or canceled. Taking paid leave during the school term can cause disruption to the school schedule and should be avoided where possible.
Your contract will almost certainly not grant leave for school holidays; in other words, you will be required to show up to work even when students are not in school. This is expected for both you and the other teachers in your office. However, your situation may vary depending on your placement, so please check with your supervisor about the specific terms for paid leave according to your contract.
When taking leave, especially when it involves travel, you may be asked to supply a contact address or other information in case of emergencies (this is the same procedure as for most Japanese employees).
Remember that your contract may be different, even within the same areas or companies, so your amount of paid leave may vary from other ALTs you speak with!
The following may be useful if you wish to take nenkyu.
- Check your class schedules with your JTEs/HRTs.
- Request the time off from your supervisor/vice-principal.
Chotto sumimasen. [DATE] oyasumi o itadakitai ndesuga.
Excuse me. I would like to ask for a holiday on [DATE].
- If approved, fill in any required forms and have the vice-principal/principal stamp their hanko.
Sick leave (Byoukyū—病休)
Whether or not you can use sick leave will vary based on your contract. Please read your contract carefully and check with your contracting organization to find out what procedures should be taken in the event of falling ill. Different procedures may be in place depending on the sickness (ie, COVID-19). If you do have sick leave, call your supervisor and request to use sick leave specifically. You may be required to present a doctor’s certificate even if you only take a single day off, or use paid leave for longer illnesses.
The following may be helpful if you wish to call in and use byokyu.
- Call your school/supervisor as soon as possible. If you simply don’t turn up, people will likely be concerned, and if you leave it until your start time it causes difficulties for those around you.
Moshi moshi, John desu keredo, Tanaka-sensei onegaishimasu.
Hello, this is John. May I speak to Mr. Tanaka, please?
- Tell the receptionist/supervisor that you feel unwell and cannot come to school.
Kyou wa guai ga warui node, yasumasete itadakemasuka?
I don’t feel well today, so may I take the day off, please?
- Ask for sick leave. Please be aware that some offices/schools may ask you to use nenkyu, so check with your CO and place(s) of work regarding types of leave.
Kyou wa byoukyuu o torasete itadakemasuka?
Can I use sick leave today?
Due to cultural differences regarding taking time off, sick leave can be a contentious issue between some JETs and their contracting organizations. Avoid getting into a direct confrontation with your CO; instead, contact a PA and let them know your situation if any difficulties arise.
Compensatory Leave (Daikyū—代休)
Daikyū is compensatory leave for authorized and completed overtime. You may be offered this for helping out at a village culture festival, teaching unpaid evening classes to members of the BOE, staying late to help with speech contest practice, or working on a Saturday or Sunday for a sports festival at school. Some schools specify the day when you can take your daikyū, and some allow you to take it when you want. Usually, it must be taken within one month.
Special Leave (Tokkyū—特休)
Your contracting organization may grant you days off other than the types listed above. These situations apply to very specific cases, for example, Bereavement Leave, Marital Leave, or Natural Disaster Leave. Check your contract for more specific details. Other cases that allow for special leave are if a supervisor deems there is a special need. This may (or may not) include times when the JET needs to go to the Immigration Office to apply for a visa extension, to the driving center to obtain a Japanese driver’s license (in cases where commuting to work requires the JET to drive), or to the city office to record a change on their Residence Card. These situations are very limited in use, so please check with your contracting organization regarding the type of leave you should take.