Planning your next trip to Japan? You’ll want to note the dates for Japan’s busiest period, Golden Week. Golden Week is a series of four national holidays occurring within one week, typically at the end of April and the beginning of May. Many people in Japan receive time off from work on these bank holidays, so you might want to reconsider visiting during this time. So, what happens if you find out you’ve booked your trip to Japan during Golden Week? Not to worry! With a bit of planning, you can still have a great time. Here are some tips on what you can do and how to avoid crowds during Golden Week in Japan.
Once you have insights on what you can do and what to avoid during golden week, you can start planning and booking your vacation in advance! This will benefit you by helping to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.
What is Golden Week in Japan?
First and foremost, the most important question is, what is Golden Week? Golden Week is one of the most exciting times of the year in Japan! It’s a collection of four national holidays within seven days, and when you combine that with well-placed weekends, you get one of the busiest holiday seasons in the country besides New Year and Obon week.
When does Golden Week in Japan Take Place?
Golden Week is from the end of April and beginning of May. During this time, the following national holidays are observed:
29th April: Showa Day
3rd May: Constitutional Memorial Day
4th May: Greenery Day
5th May: Children’s Day
Why Do Japanese celebrate Golden Week?
Golden Week is the term for the week that encompasses four of Japan’s 15 national holidays. It begins with Showa Day, then continues with Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Children’s Day. The following holidays have significant meaning:
Showa Day (Showa no hi):
April 29 is the birthday of former Emperor Showa, who died in the year 1989. Until 2006, Greenery Day (see May 4) used to be celebrated on this day.
Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi):
On this day in 1947, the new postwar constitution was put into effect.
Greenery Day (Midori no hi):
Before 2006, Greenery Day was celebrated on April 29, the birthday of former Emperor Showa. The day is dedicated to the environment, because the emperor loved plants and nature. May 4 used to be a national holiday due to a law that declares a day that falls between two national holidays a national holiday.
Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi):
The Boy’s Festival, also known as Tango no Sekku, is celebrated every year on May 5 in Japan. Families display carp streamers and samurai dolls in their homes as a way of praying for the health and future success of their sons. The Girl’s Festival is celebrated on March 3
9 Tips for visitors to visit Golden Week in Japan – Plan Ahead!
1. Golden Week can be an expensive time to travel.
If you are suddenly feeling adventurous about going to Japan at short notice, Flights and hotel costs will be one of your first considerations. It can be costly if you book them last minute, especially during the golden week. However, if you plan and make your reservations as far as possible, you can minimise the cost.
If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you can save a lot of money on airfare. For example, Golden Week is a popular time to travel, so if you choose to arrive a few days before the holiday and depart a few days after, you’ll find much cheaper flights.
2. Book hotels in advance
If you’re looking to book a hotel in Japan, booking in advance is the best way to go! This way, you can plan on which places you would like to visit and which is convenient to travel around, especially somewhere you can easily access any transportation.
3. Double Check Opening Hours
One important thing to note is that you should always double-check the stores’ opening hours before your visit, especially during the golden week when everyone is on holiday. You don’t want to find out that your favourite place to eat is closed, and all you can do is admire the cute shutter art.
4. Chop Your Table
Another great tip is to make reservations at your favourite restaurants in advance so you don’t have to worry about where to eat! This will definitely be to your advantage.
5. Book transportation in advance
Generally, you will have to make your train reservations once in Japan, so it is best to do this as soon as you arrive! Even if you have a Japan Rail Pass, you should reserve train seats in advance (at no extra cost). Most importantly is knowing where and when you are going every day of your trip. Transportation and attractions may be difficult to access during Golden Week, but with careful planning, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip!
6. Make all reservations early
For travelling, You can activate your Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a cost-effective rail pass for long-distance train travel in Japan. It offers unlimited rides on JR trains for one, two or three weeks at a specific cost. It comes in two types: ordinary and green cars. The latter is valid for green cars (first class cars) that offer more spacious seats than regular cars.
With an activated pass, you can make seat reservations early. It’s recommended to make seat reservations, especially when travelling in a large group. You may find it difficult to get seating together on the trains, especially during golden week.
7. Allow extra time for travel
During Golden Week, more people are travelling than usual, so be prepared for longer lines or delays when using your Japan Rail Pass. Allow extra time to accommodate any potential delays.
8. Visit popular tourist destinations early
If you want to avoid crowds, plan your trip to popular tourist destinations early in the morning. You’ll have the place nearly to yourself, and you’ll be able to get that perfect photo without someone’s head in the way. Before visiting, you may also plan and go early for the most popular festivals. We will discuss the different festivals you should visit during golden week later in the article.
9. Enjoy what’s local
One great way to beat the crowds is to avoid using highways, public transportation, and tourist attractions. Instead, plan to pursue activities within walking distance of your accommodations. You can also opt for an outdoor Onsen bath at a Spa near your hotel, perfect for escaping all the crowd and enjoying the natural scenery.
What are some things to do during Golden Week?
1. Visit Tokyo
Although Tokyo is typically known for its dense population, you may find that many of its residents vacation elsewhere during Golden Week. This means shorter waits and fewer crowds at Tokyo’s restaurants, parks, museums, and other attractions. There is even a Hawaiian festival in Tokyo during Golden Week and the Spring Grand Festival at Meiji Shrine.
The Shitamachi district in Tokyo traditionally refers to the working-class neighbourhoods downtown. These areas have become increasingly popular in recent years for souvenir shopping and sightseeing, as they offer a more traditional atmosphere than Roppongi and Hiroo.
Tokyo’s suburbs may also interest you, especially the neighbourhoods along the Chuo Line. Nakano, Asagaya and Kichijoji are all living areas with great shopping streets where you can find some good deals. Kichijoji is also home to Inokashira Park, an ample, beautiful green space perfect for a stroll or sightseeing.
If you’re interested in fashion, art, and cafes, check out Tokyo’s hipster neighbourhoods of Daikanyama, Jiyugaoka, and Shimokitazawa. You’ll find a unique and stylish scene in each of these areas.
2. Visit Outdoor Festival in Tokyo
Here are some of the top things to do during the golden week holidays in Tokyo. Various festivals are celebrated in nearly every city in Japan. These may include events for viewing wisteria or azalea flowers, historical parades, or cultural celebrations.
Note: The information of listed events may change, so please check official websites before visiting.
1. Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival
Tokyo Skytree Town will be celebrating Children’s Day with 1,000 colourful carp streamers displayed at the foot of Tokyo Skytree. Food vendors, special events and attractions will also be available for a limited time.
Location: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan
2. Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival
Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival is a traditional event held since the Edo period. It is one of the most popular flower festivals in Tokyo during spring, with over 100 beautiful wisteria flowers blooming and hanging at the historic shrine site. This creates an elegant and peaceful
scenery by the pond and vermilion arch bridge. Along with the magnificent view of the wisterias, the festival also features several special events and vendors offering food and drinks.
Location: 15 mins walk from Kameido Station
3. Bunkyo Azalea Festival at Nezu Shrine
The Bunkyo Azalea Festival is an annual event held at Nezu Shrine in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo. The festival features over 100 varieties of azalea plants, trimmed into shapes and blooming in different colours. There are also several small stalls selling food and drinks and a market selling pot plants and other items.
Location: 1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo City, Tokyo
4. Showa Memorial Park Flower
Showa Memorial Park is a national park located in Tachikawa City, a suburb of Tokyo. The park features a variety of amenities, including lawns, flower fields, and a Japanese garden with a pond. Various kinds of seasonal flowers and plants can be seen at the park, including cherry blossoms and tulips during spring, hydrangeas and sunflowers during summer, and cosmos and ginkgo trees during autumn.
Location: SHOWA MEMORIAL PARK, 3173 MIDORI-CHO, TACHIKAWA-SHI, TOKYO
5. Niku Fes
If you love food, you’ll definitely want to check out The Meat Festival (Niku Fes) in Tokyo. It’s one of the biggest food festivals in the city and it’s held during the Golden Week period at Komazawa Olympic Park. This borderless food event features a variety of meat dishes from different countries and genres. From premium Wagyu beef to plant-based meat substitutes, you can enjoy a whole bunch of unique and delicious meaty dishes!
Location: 5 minutes on foot from Yurikamome Daiba Station, 7 minutes on foot from Tokyo Teleport Station on the Rinkai Line
6. Ashikaga Flower Park
Ashikaga Flower Park in Tokyo is a magical place filled with luscious greenery. Wisteria flowers that look like purple petals trickling down like raindrops are spread across the park, making it a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Location: 607 Hasamacho, Ashikaga, Tochigi 329-4216 (Near Ashikaga Flower Park Station)
7. Fuji Shibazakura Festival
Come see the magnificent Fuji Shibazakura Festival, where you can gaze upon fields of stunning purple and pink moss, which look like flowers from a distance. You can even see Mt. Fuji in the distance! This wide area is perfect for celebrating Greenery Day during Golden Week. The festival is a bit far from Tokyo, but it’s easy to get there.
Location: 212 Motosu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun 401-0337 (Near Kawaguchiko Station)
8. Koinobori Festival at Tokyo Tower
If you want to see some colourful carp streamers that look like they’re flying in the sky, we recommend you visit Tokyo Tower. Carp streamers are decorated outside for Children’s Day, making for a pretty picturesque scene. You can view them in the daytime or after sunset when they light up.
Location: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0011 (Near Onarimon Station)
So Have You Decided If You Should Go During Golden Week?
I hope this article was helpful for you. If there’s no turning back and you’ve booked your trip to Japan during Golden Week, then this article is sure to help you make your vacation smooth and enjoyable.
If not, you can still enjoy the experience in Singapore during Japan’s Golden week. It could be a “Singaporeans week” for you! Enjoy an Authentic Japanese Spa experience by indulging in a Hinoki Onsen bath at Ikeda Spa! Our baths are made from cypress wood and infused with various bath salts, providing a truly relaxing experience. Plus, it’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Click on the banner below to find out how to get your FREE onsen bath!