Photo credit: Rumpleteaser License: Creative Commons
Golden week is a week of national holidays in Japan, a popular time for travel, relaxation, and fun. It is often mentioned in anime, usually with a spring holiday storyline.
Golden Week falls at the end of April and the beginning of May, with four holidays falling altogether and producing a whole week off. This produces a rare holiday not just for school children but also for much of the Japanese workforce.
The four holidays are -
April 29: Showa Day
This holiday celebrates Emperor Hirohito’s birthday, and the Japanese remember the Showa Era on this day.
May 3: Constitution Memorial Day
This holiday celebrates the signing of Japan’s post-war constitution, an act that replaced the Meiji constitution.
May 4: Greenery Day
This day is dedicated to the environment; people are encouraged to appreciate nature on this holiday.
May 5: Children’s Day
On this day, families (and people in general) wish for the happiness of children. It is celebrated by hanging carp streamers; these can be seen hung up in shops and high places and allowed to flap in the wind for the entirety of Golden Week. Previously May 5th was known as Boy’s Day, and families still sometimes display samurai dolls and pray their son’s strength.
Golden week is already one of the longest stretches of continuous holiday in Japan, but in honour of the Imperial transition in 2019 extra vacation days were added. Emperor Akihito abdicated on the 30th Aprill 2019, ending the Heisei era, and the 1st May was made an official holiday.
Japan also has a rule that days sandwiched between national holidays are also days off, meaning Golden Week became ten days in 2019.
Unlike New Years’ and Obon, Golden Week is seen as a holiday for pure fun instead of time to visit family. Transport systems are often overwhelmed with travelers, and international travel peaks around this time. In North Hokkaido, the cherry blossom season is often peaking in Golden Week, so vantage points, mountains, and historic sites see a large number of visitors.
Even with the crowds, Golden Week is generally known for a cheerful atmosphere all over Japan. The Super GT Fuji 500 km race is also held during Golden Week.
Of course people use this free time as they please, to study, to sleep, to indulge in their hobbies. Sadly normal travel was discouraged in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the holiday this year is likely to also be disrupted.
Foreign travellers are often advised to avoid Japan during this week as neogogiating the transport system is difficult during this time and hotels and restaurants are also fully booked.
In addition to the Golden Week holidays, there are also a number of consecutive holidays, which take place in mid-September, which is called Silver Week!