It's Golden Week! Happy four-day weekend, everyone! You deserve it! Except teachers.

So around the start of May every year there is a cluster of four national holidays that all fall within about a week of one another. This means that the hard-working citizens of this great nation have a real break after the rigours of the new year. It's like spring break, or the Easter holiday. Everyone goes away for a few days, maybe to the mountains or the sea, or just back home. Everyone has a chance to relax.


A national holiday is, you'll probably be rather less than astonished to learn, supposed to be a holiday for the nation - a free day that the entire nation can enjoy however they wish. A holiday that no one can take away from you, that you have a right to as a citizen of the nation of which you are a part. A bloc of several holidays in a row can be considered a vacation - a time wherein you escape your regular life.

Of course, you don't have to go anywhere. Some people like to read - my mother often passes a short vacation by reading a few dozen books. My father will go around the house fixing things - or, if my mother is sufficiently occupied with her reading, build a new extension while she isn't looking. I like to watch the entire series of Star Wars movies. All three of them. These are the things it is okay for you to do on vacation.

Know why it's called a vacation? Because you VACATE your regular life. You are freed from it.

Now, onto my point. Teachers in Japan are workaholics. You may or may not know this, but they work longer and harder, sacrifice more of their home life and personal time, than any other professional I have ever had the honour of working with. They are truly public servants, and I mean that with none of the negative connotations that seem to plague the term.

[This is, incidentally, not to belittle any other nation's teachers or any other profession, and certainly not to say that everyone here is a saint. But if any one group of people deserves a rest once in a while it is Japanese teachers. Work with them for five minutes and you'll see why.]

So what do I learn this week? Well, none of them - not one of the people I work with - has a four day weekend. Not one of them has a three-day or even a two-day weekend. Some of them have one day. Most have a half day. Some are working the entire time.

No, they do not get another day off another time to compensate - they are at this point essentially working for no money.

What are they doing, you ask? Well, the students are all members of sports teams and other clubs, and have various competitions, which the organizers have decided in their infinite wisdom to hold on EVERY ONE of the national holidays. It apparently never occurred to them that although this will allow many people to spectate who would not otherwise ordinarily be able, it also requires that all the teachers associated with those particular sports be drafted in to help the kids. Thus no vacation for them. Or for the kids, by the way.

The problem is that the teachers care enough about seeing their kids do well that they will never abandon them to go and do their own thing. See, the kind of people who would voluntarily give up a vacation day to help their students are exactly the wrong people to leave that kind of decision up to, because they will just never relax.

My proposals:

I) Working on a national holiday shall henceforth be punishable by enforced vacationing and pay enrisening.

II) Forcing others to work on a national holiday by organizing competitions to fall on that day shall be punishable by death by skeleton removal.

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