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What is 'Golden Week' in Japan and what do people actually do?

Many many national holidays in Japan

Japan is a strange country where notorious long working hour (you should have heard of word 'Karo-shi 過労死 this simply stands for 'Overwork-death') and one of the largest number of national holidays co-exist.

Japan have 16 national holidays (bank holiday in the UK) so far compared to only 8 in the UK. Japan is very worker-friendly state in terms of the number of public holidays. 

Japanese Golden Week

When is 'biggest' holiday season in Japan?

In the West, biggest holiday season is obviously Christmas. Arguably, next biggest one is Easter Holiday in the UK and many other countries. In Japan, we think that the biggest holiday in a year is New Year's season (正月).

Normally, New Year's holiday is rather spending time with family than going to travel somewhere in Japan. So, it's not quite a 'holiday' season. In terms of travelling holiday, Golden Week is the biggest holiday period in Japan.

Japanese New Year's Decoration & Japanese Christmas pictures below 

 Golden Week in JapanGolden Week in Japan

What is Golden Week?

Although there is no clear definition of Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク) in Japan, but normally it is a holiday period from 29th April to 5th May. This period contains 4 national holidays which are 29th April (Showa Day) 3rd May (Constitution Memorial Day) 4th May (Greenery Day) and 5th May (Children's Day). 

Strictly speaking, the days other than those 4 national holidays are NOT holiday. Having said that, many people (even in Japan!) take days off in between to fill a gap (29th April and 3rd May)

This year's (2018) calendar is not that bad, actually pretty good. 30th April will become a substitute holiday. So, if you take just two days (1st and 2nd) off, you will get 9 day-long holiday. 

Golden Week in Japan

Where are Japanese people going in Golden Week?

 I know many people say 'I'd rather would like to stay at home in Golden Week as I think it's too busy everywhere' To be honest, going out in this season is almost insane as it is true that it's literally full of people everywhere!

And I believe I'm not only one and have heard many voices of similar opinions. When I watch news in Golden Week every year, I'm wondering if I'm only one to stay at home? Simply, people are completely aware that it's nightmare to go to sightseeing places in this period.

Most major highways are like this...

 Golden Week in Japan

And airports...

 Golden Week in Japan

So, people in Japan actually do go somewhere! In beginning of May, it's already hot as summer in the most parts of Japan. So, people mostly enjoy outdoor activities in Golden Week. It's a perfect season for doing a BBQ party. Beware, it's actually very hot (sometimes reach over 25 degrees in May in Japan). Do make sure to protect yourself from strong sunshine. 

You can even enjoy swimming in the sea in Okinawa already. This southern island has a tropical climate, so swimming season starts from March(!) every year.

Golden Week in Japan

Possibly highest season for travel in Japan....

As is always the case with high season, Golden Week is possibly the highest season for travel in the year in Japan. Airline ticket, hotel prices are always peak price (please note that trains in Japan have NO seasonal prices in general (just a small difference if any. Never double or triple price, so almost same price all the year, just it's extremely difficult to get a ticket). 

 Beware, foreign travellers planning to travel to Japan in this season. You will be overwhelmed by a huge crowd in every sightseeing place and they are not local people (i.e. strangers) like you. 

Thank you for reading!

 

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