There are a number of words for holiday, vacation, etc. I'd like to clarify their various uses:

祭日 National holiday. There is also 祝日 but I'm under the impression for, say, America's July 4, observed by all 50 American states, 祭日 is preferred.

Confusingly, not least for Americans, there are state holidays that are not Federal holidays, and a few Federal days that are not celebrated in all states. Would a state holiday be, say, テキサス州の祭日?

休日 I have the sense that this is a more general term. It could be a national holiday, but not necessarily so. It could be a day you get off because of your union contract. You could also use use it for, say, this year I'm taking my vacation in France.

休暇 I have the impression that this is often used for specifically taking time off from work for vacationing somewhere or just a rest. But can it also be used for, say, a retiree going to London for a week?

休み I have the sense this is the most general term for any kind of rest and, of course in お休み for simply saying goodnight.

バカンス A trip (perhaps overseas), perhaps with a specific purpose (golf vacation, etc.). Are there any other nuances?

Are there any other words that should be included in this list? Also, I've focused on American custom and uses, but of course Japanese traditions may be more pertinent and relevant.

1 Answer 1


Your explanation seems very good overall, but let me point out several things:

  • Practically, 祝日 and 祭日 are used interchangeably, but 祝日 is more common and safer. Officially, all Japanese national holidays are referred to as 祝日 now, and NHK has made it a rule to not use 祭日 at all. As this article says, 祭日 historically referred to holidays associated with shintō rituals, while 祝日 referred to other holidays. Such distinction was waived many years ago, but we still sometimes see 祭日. (The kanji 祭 in this context is closer to rituals rather than festivals or carnivals.)

  • 休暇 and バカンス technically refer to the same thing. バカンス is just a loanword version, which sounds cool to some. But since バカンス is often used in advertisements, many people have an image of spending time leisurely at a resort area or a foreign country. バカンス does not have to be tied to some specific recreation or purpose. A retired person doesn't usually use 休暇/バカンス unless they are still busy for some reason after retirement.

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