September 23, 2009

Silver Week

My co-worker said to me last Friday: “Hey, what are you doing for Silver Week?”
Me: “Huh? What’s Silver Week?”

Today was the last day of the so-called Silver Week, a new pseudo-English phrase that has gained acceptance in describing a set of extended holidays, five days long, from September 19 through 23, in Japan. The Japanese government designated an extra national holiday on September 22 so there would be five consecutive days off. It’s unusual to get these holidays, and I read that the next time the calendar will afford another Silver Week will be in five years.

Technically not quite a full week, the ‘silver’ half of the term is likely derived from the commonly used allusion to silver in connection with aged/elderly folks, given their gray hair. (September 21 is Respect for the Aged Day.)

Silver Week is also is a pun on Golden Week, Japan’s version of Spring Break, in May. Golden Week has four national holidays which fall within the space of one week, resulting in the longest vacation period of the year for many Japanese workers. So people can take an extended vacation at home or head abroad.

To my recollection, there hasn’t been a Silver Week since I arrived on these shores in 1996. I think it has come about for economic -- rather than altruistic -- reasons
, viz. granting the still-overworked Japanese another respite from the work grind so they can go out and spend, spend, spend. Think opportunism more than Utopianism.

Still, the vibe in my workplace is that any excuse for a few more days off is most welcome and rarely questioned in terms of ulterior government motives. Personally, I left skid marks on the floor when leaving the office on Friday afternoon.

Based on what I’ve seen on the news, this super long-weekend, together with discounted expressway toll prices, has mostly resulted in another round of 40-plus kilometer traffic jams in the major urban areas—a road-rage inducing, chaotic mess. When I discussed this turn of events with my aunt-in-law (sic?), she said the crazy traffic jams on the expressways have made them an oxymoron—more democratic (i.e. cheaper) tolls have reduced their utility because taking the expressway during any extended holiday period is now is an exercise in futility.

Nonetheless, I had an outstanding Silver Week here in the Hiroshima area with the Rising Family. Leave it to the Japanese to coin another catchy term for a new social phenomenon…I am expecting a Bronze Week to arrive any time now with a corny slogan and inevitable animated character: “Let’s all vacation to happily revitalize the economy.” And why not? I am always ready to take a day off for the greater good.

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