Adult Japan is infamous as a society of overworked corporate drones who routinely sleep at the office, miss landmarks in their childrens’ lives and throw themselves off buildings when “downsized” (fired).

This reputation is in some ways unfair, but half-truths are a lot more resilient than complete lies. To make this situation a little more human, large Japanese firms have started reducing the burden placed on their employees in various ways.

Some have started sending employees home early twice a week to encourage the national birthrate (that’s right, they want their employees to go home and multiply). Others have altered their practices for after-work social activities (Japanese employees are expected to routinely socialise with their coworkers after knocking off, often far too often and for far too long).

One thing that’s not so recent, however, is Golden Week. This name (the same in Japanese「ゴールデンウイーク」) refers to a string of three Public Holidays which fall one after another at the beginning of March. Like in other countries, if one of the holidays falls on a weekend the government enacts a “compensatory holiday” for that year, and if there is a working day between the weekend and the public holidays (ie Monday or Friday) companies typically give their employees the day off. This allows most Japanese to take at least a five day holiday at the beginning of May (which is about when you can start to feel the effects of Spring) and many take an additional week of leave before, to bring it up to two weeks.

For Japanese, the Golden Week tradition is to return to your 古里 (furusato, hometown) but so many have grown up in the major cities that they no longer have family in their ancestral town, travelling to more “touristy” places instead. Parents of young children will especially use this time to take the family to places like Kyoto and Nara, or Hiroshima where they can experience a more “Japanese” atmosphere than the westernised, metropolitan jungles of Tokyo and Osaka.

For us exchange students, it’s often the first opportunity to get out and really do some exploration or sightseeing. Unfortunately, the Australian dollar sank last week and I decided not to go on my planned trip to Kyoto. Instead, I’ve been spending the time catching up on projects I haven’t had time to follow up on. Last night I installed Adobe Lightroom, and this morning carefully began the process of migrating my library of 11,000 or so photos over from iPhoto. With the tutelage of my friend Brian, I should be able to use Lightroom to accelerate all the postproduction which had been too slow (and demotivating) before. I’m also going to try and launch my “UTS in Yamanashi” site, so that those who are assigned to come here next year have some concrete information to help them along.

Lastly, I need to get into an exercise routine. My entire body is so much weaker than I realised – just warming up for Aikido gets me worn out, even holding up the clarinet for an hour at band makes my right arm limp. Of course, it all starts… tomorrow.