Taking a vacation or many consecutive days off is called “有給休暇をとる (Yūkyū kyūkawotoru)” in the Japanese language. Although employees are entitled to take paid leave by the labor law, in reality there are some limitations or obstacles if you want to take extra days off in Japanese companies.

Especially if you don’t know the proper way of taking a vacation and leave the office without informing anybody in advance, it may cause cultural conflicts with your colleagues or boss. In this column, you will find information about how you can apply for days off without bothering your colleagues.

Basic knowledge about Japanese “days off”

According to Japanese labor law, the annual leave granted to employees in Japan is at least 10 days.

An employer shall grant annual paid leave of 10 working days, either consecutive or divided, to workers who have been employed continuously for 6 months from the day of their being hired and who have reported for work on at least 80 percent of the total working days.
Quotation: Japanese Labor Act

However, in reality, only 50% of the allowed paid time off work is used by employees. While German people enjoy around 30 days off a year, the average vacation time of Japanese people is considered the worst among OECD countries.

Source: Adapted from OECD

There are some reasons why Japanese people use such a small number of days off per year. One of the biggest reasons is that the number of public holidays in Japan is relatively higher than in European countries. In Japan, the number of public holidays stands at around 16 – 17 annually, whereas in European countries at 10.

In fact, Japanese MNEs located in Europe provide more paid holidays than in Japan, and the number of paid holidays is almost the same as at local companies. So, if you work in Japanese companies outside of Japan, you don’t need to be worried about the insufficient paid holidays as MNEs basically follow the local rules (for example, Japanese MNEs in Germany provide minimum 20 paid days off a year, as secured by German labor law).

Another reason why Japanese people don’t take long vacations is rooted in their culture. Japanese people tend to hesitate to take extra days off because many employees are worried their absence may cause additional work for their colleagues. When they do take paid holidays, in contrast to European people, they look very unhappy and seem sorry for their colleagues and clients who have to deal with all the inconveniences while they are off work. Therefore, if you plan to take a vacation in Japanese companies, you are expected to behave the same way.

5 tips for your day off application in Japanese companies

As mentioned before, your paid leave is secured by the labor law of each country, but whether you can in fact take a vacation without creating any conflicts with your boss, depends on your negotiation skills and knowledge of Japanese culture. Listed below are 5 tips on how to take a vacation in Japanese companies without causing any inconvenience to your boss or colleagues.

Avoid taking days off during a busy season

Although it depends on the industry, the following periods are regarded as times when people should avoid taking a vacation.


Japanese term 


Beginning/end of month  月初/月末 Many inquiries, many meetings 
Beginning/end of 4Q 四半期初め/締め Many internal meetings are expected 
End of financial year  年度末 Being busy trying to reach annual target 
After long holidays 連休明け Many inquiries from your clients 

Basically, as shown above, you have to avoid taking a vacation at the beginning or the end of each month/4Q/financial year. If you have many tasks with Japanese HQ or Japanese markets, then you have to concern about the “Japanese financial year” instead of the European one.

Communicate well with your colleagues and hand over the tasks

During your absence, you have to hand over your tasks (so-called “hikitsugi” or “引継ぎ” in Japanese) to your boss or colleagues and give a detailed explanation about each task when handing it over. Especially, the following points should be explained;

  • Deadline
  • Priority
  • External person involved

In case your explanation is not enough, your colleague or clients will contact you even during your vacation.

Leave a reachable phone number during your vacation

Generally speaking, when you take a vacation, your colleagues don’t contact you. However, in case something serious or urgent happens and you are the only person who can deal with that, you cannot avoid receiving a phone call. For that purpose, it would be advisable to leave your personal phone number to your colleagues.

Buy souvenirs from your vacation for your colleagues

In order to show your appreciation for taking over your tasks during your vacation, it would be recommended to gift something small to your colleagues (generally, sweets are welcome).


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It is very common in Japanese companies to give a small souvenir from your vacation to your colleagues or clients. It doesn’t need to be expensive; if you spend around 1000 yen (10USD), it would be enough.

Take over tasks of your colleagues when they take a vacation

As a part of the reciprocity culture, it would be a good idea to help your colleagues when they take a vacation. If you are recognized as a person who tends to help your colleagues, your colleagues won’t hesitate to take over your tasks when you are absent. If you always ignore your colleagues and fail to build a good relationship with them, nobody will handle your tasks during your vacation and you will be shocked with the pile of documents when you come back to the office from your long vacation.