Ultimate Guide to Golden Week

By Kristine | Revised by Hei-Kin Wong | June 4th, 2023 

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    Golden Week is a celebrated week-long extravaganza of multiple holidays in Japan. Specifically, it includes a succession of four holidays from the 29th of April to the 5th of May. The sequence of events commences with Showa Day, where Japan commemorates the late Emperor Showa, followed by Constitution Memorial Day, which observes the enforcement of Japan's new constitution. Then, Greenery Day acknowledges the natural environment and, lastly, Children's Day, which celebrates children's happiness, well-being, and growth. 

    In this all-inclusive guide, we will furnish you with an exhaustive rundown of Golden Week, encompassing its history and customs. Moreover, we'll give practical advice so you can celebrate this holiday without breaking the bank, along with a couple of tried and true itineraries you can follow to navigate the holiday rush.

    This article is a part of our extensive series on Learning about Japan through Online Japanese Lessons at Japan Switch. (We also offer in-person Japanese lessons in Ueno - only 5 minutes away from Akihabara!)


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    What is it? And when is Golden Week?

    So as we just saw, Golden Week is a term used to refer to a cluster of four separate holidays during the course of a single week. Because of this, Golden Week is generally a massive one-week holiday for Japanese people.

    As is natural, since most Japanese people get time off work during Golden Week, there’s a desire to make the most of this time, by going out and celebrating. Traditionally, Golden Week is a very busy time in Japan, with many Japanese people taking this opportunity to go on holiday, either locally or internationally. 

    It is also customary for revelers to take advantage of this time to party, go out to see a movie, or visit a museum. Many local clubs and restaurants throw Golden Week parties, which we’ll talk a bit about later on. So there’s never any shortage of things you can do during Golden Week.

    geisha walking around old town in japan

    When does Golden Week take place?

    Traditionally, Golden Week takes place at the end of April, and the beginning of May. It begins on the 29th of April, which is Showa Day, and continues until May 5th (Children’s Day). While not all the days between April 29th and May 5th are national holidays, many companies have decided to give time off throughout Golden Week, as it’s more sensible than having to keep opening and closing during this time.

    Golden Week falls at a great time of the year. In late spring, the weather in Japan is neither too warm, nor too cold. This makes it ideal to spend time outside, celebrating Golden Week, or see the sights in Japan.

    In recent years, Japan has been taken over by a real “travel bug”, with many Japanese people going abroad for Golden Week, or at the very least, traveling to a resort of some sort.

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    Brief History - How Golden Week Came About

    So you’re probably wondering how Golden Week started. Well, it’s time for a bit of history. While Golden Week is a national holiday overdrive, the term actually comes, surprisingly, from the cinema industry.

    This started during the mid-20th century, after the new Japanese Constitution of 1947, when Japanese people started enjoying a lot more spare time, with this cluster of holidays. And naturally, since the movie-theater was at its peak during that time, many of them retreated to movie theaters to enjoy their free time during Golden Week.

    In 1951, post-war filmmaker and writer Bunroku Shishi enjoyed tremendous success with the premiere of his movie “Jiyu Gakko”, which got record sales during that year’s Golden Week (though it hadn’t been named that yet).

    As was to be expected, local film studio Daiei noticed that, and realized there was something more here, which is how Daiei Managing Director Hideo Matsuyama came up with the term “Golden Week”. In truth, this was borrowed from the term “Golden Time”, which was a waseigo (Japanese English) word for radio prime time.

    Apparently, the term stuck, with everyone from advertising companies to restaurants, even to travel agencies, and of course movie studios, gearing up early every year for Golden Week. In many ways, it was a loop, with stores and companies advertising heavily for Golden Week (much like Western companies do for Valentine’s Day, for example), and people feeling under pressure to go all out with this cluster of national holidays.

    As was to be expected, leisure activities across the country saw a veritable boom during Golden Week, and continue to do so to this day, with many people opting for a quick nip abroad during this extended free time.

    Side Note: It was also Matsuyama who later coined the term “Silver Week”, to describe a similar string of national holidays taking place every year in September.

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    The 4 Holidays of Golden Week

    In total, there are fifteen recognized national Japanese holidays, scattered throughout the year, with Golden Week making up a whopping four of these. During Golden Week, the Japanese people traditionally celebrate Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day.

    It’s interesting to note that May 1st (aka May Day) also falls during Golden Week, and it has become customary for many employers to also give employees time off for that as well.

    And now, let’s see what these holidays that make up Golden Week are, exactly, and how they came to be celebrated in Japanese culture.

    Showa Day

    Showa Day is a significant national holiday in Japan that falls on April 29th each year. It commemorates the birthday of Emperor Showa, who reigned from 1926 to 1989. While the current Emperor's birthday changes depending on the current Emperor, the Showa Day was retained as a tribute to Emperor Showa's remarkable reign. Showa Day celebrations are typically subdued, with activities such as picnics, visits to shrines, and enjoying the beautiful cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Those who want to learn more about Emperor Showa's life and reign can visit the Musashino Imperial Mausoleum where he is buried or the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo.

    Constitution Day

    Constitution Day is celebrated in Japan on May 3rd to mark the day the country adopted its current constitution in 1947. The new constitution focused on pacifism, human rights, and giving power to the people, renouncing war and military expansion. It also limited the Emperor's power to being a symbol of the state and unity of the people. The adoption of the new constitution marked a significant change in Japan's history and a move towards peace and greater respect for human rights.

    The day is observed with somber events, including lectures at the Tokyo National Museum and the opening of buildings that are typically closed to the public, such as the National Diet Building in Chiyoda.

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    Greenery Day

    Greenery Day is a national holiday celebrated in Japan on May 4th. It was originally established in 1989 to commemorate the reign of Emperor Showa and his love for plants. However, in 2007, it was relocated from April 29th to May 4th, to serve as an "in-between day" between Constitution Day and Children's Day. The day is celebrated by tree-planting activities and the National Afforestation Campaign, and it is also a great opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature or have a cup of green tea. 

    Some popular activities on Greenery Day include tree-planting, the National Afforestation Campaign, and the harvesting of green tea leaves. It is a perfect time to enjoy nature, take a walk, or visit a park.

    Children’s Day

    Last but certainly not least, we have Tango No Sekku, aka Children’s Day, which is celebrated on the 5th of May every year, and also marks the closing of Golden Week. This is by far the oldest holiday to take place during Golden Week, with the first Children’s Day (also sometimes referred to as Boy’s Day) being celebrated all the way back during the Nara Period (710-94). 

    In Japan, Children’s Day is one of the country’s gosekku, Japan’s five sacred festivals. The other gosekku are held on the 1st of the 1st month (aka the New Year); the 3rd of the 3rd month (Hinamatsuri, or Girl’s Day, traditionally celebrated with wine and poetry); the 7th of the 7th month (celebrating the crossing of the Vega and Altair constellations - also referred to as the Cowherd and the Weaver - who are star-crossed lovers, separated by the Milky Way). Finally, we have the 9th of the 9th month, the Kiku no sekku, which is associated with the autumnal harvest. These holidays have strong ties to the Chinese calendar, as well, as some of you may have noticed.

    Children’s Day is celebrated, traditionally, by families with boy children flying huge carp streamers. This ties to the belief that if a young carp can swim against rapid currents, it will grow up strong. There are events celebrating children held throughout the country, such as comedic shows (kyogen), and other celebrations.

    children day festival with carp streamers in golden week

    Note: To explore different national holidays in Japan, see our Ultimate Guide to National Holidays to get a list of Japan's most important holidays

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    Golden Week: What to Know Before You Go

    Whether you're a local or a tourist, there are a few things to keep in mind before you head out. While Golden Week is often associated with festive celebrations, it's important to remember that some of the holidays within this week have a more solemn meaning. Showa Day and Constitution Day, for instance, are to commemorate important historical events in Japan's past.

    Golden Week is More Than Festive Celebrations

    If you're looking to make the most of your Golden Week experience, take the time to appreciate Japan's rich culture and traditions. Use this opportunity to learn more about the country's history and customs. While it's perfectly fine to indulge in commercial activities like visiting a restaurant, movie theater, or resort, try to balance those activities with more traditional ones.

    Instead of solely focusing on the commercial aspect of Golden Week, take the time to appreciate the country's deep and complex history. Use this opportunity to learn more about Japan's culture and traditions. While it's perfectly fine to indulge in commercial activities like visiting a restaurant, movie theater, or resort, try to strike a balance between those and more traditional activities.

    Plan Ahead for Popular Destinations and Events

    If you're planning to participate in Golden Week festivities, it's recommended that you plan ahead. This will help you secure a spot at your desired attraction or event, especially if it's a popular tourist destination. If you're planning to visit theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland or Universal Studios Japan, make sure to purchase your tickets in advance and secure fast passes. This will not only save you from disappointment but also help you avoid the inflated prices during Golden Week.

    Expect Inflated Prices During Golden Week

    Speaking of prices, it's important to note that the cost of activities during Golden Week is often higher than usual. Keep this in mind when planning your itinerary to prevent any unexpected expenses. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can fully embrace Golden Week and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japan's culture and history.

    Free Admissions During Golden Week (Tokyo)

    Free admissions during Japan’s busiest time of the year are definitely more than just a steal. It’s worth noting before planning out an itinerary that many attractions including but not limited to parks, museums, art exhibits, and zoos will be offering free admissions during Golden Week, especially on Greenery Day and Children’s Day. But take note that free admissions are usually for children so it’s best to check for the age requirements of the place or attraction. Currently, all of these locations have reopened for tourists and locals alike. Make the most out of your golden week holiday by visiting these attractions!

    Note: Most of the locations below only offer free admission on the 4th of May (Greenery Day / Mindoro-no-hi). If you are visiting these locations make sure to plan around this.

    art exhibit in edo tokyo museum

    Ueno Zoo: A Fun-filled Family Adventure

    Looking for a fun-filled family adventure in Tokyo? Look no further than Ueno Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in Japan. 

    One of the highlights of Ueno Zoo is the East Garden, where visitors can explore attractions like Bear Hill, Tiger Forest, and Gorilla Forest. Here, you can get up close and personal with these majestic animals, observing them in their natural habitats. In addition to these larger animals, the zoo also boasts a diverse collection of exotic creatures, including Asiatic elephants and many other fascinating species.

    For those looking for a more hands-on experience with animals, the Children's Zoo section is not to be missed. Here, children can have direct contact with domesticated animals, allowing them to learn about animal behavior and care while having fun.

    But Ueno Zoo isn't just about the animals – it also has a profound and colorful history. Founded in 1882, the zoo has undergone numerous transformations over the years, surviving earthquakes, war, and other challenges. Today, it stands as a testament to the enduring popularity of animal conservation and education in Japan.

    Stepping in Japan’s past in the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum

    If you're looking for a one of a kind and immersive way to explore Japan's rich cultural history, look no further than the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum. Here, visitors can step back in time and experience life in Japan during the Edo period.

    One of the best part of the museum is its vast outdoor space, where traditional homes, temples, and shops have been precisely reconstructed to capture the essence of the era. As you wander through the streets, you'll feel as if you've been transported back in time, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of old Japan.

    There are also plenty of interactive exhibits and performances that bring the past to life. Visitors can try their hand at traditional crafts like pottery-making and weaving, or watch skilled artisans demonstrate their techniques. Be sure not to miss performances of traditional music and dance which provide a glimpse of cultural life in the Edo period.

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    Discover Art and History at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

    A fan of art and design? The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is housed in a stunning Art Deco building that was originally built as a residence for Prince Asaka in the 1930s. Its elegant interiors and beautiful gardens provide a distinctive setting for exploring a wide range of art and exhibitions. With new exhibitions constantly on the schedule, there's always something new to see and appreciate. If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is a perfect way station for anyone seeking more of Japan’s beauty, culture, and history.

    Discover nature at the Rikugien Garden

    Nestled within the beating heart of Tokyo, Rikugien Garden is an idyllic oasis that offers respite from the cacophony of urban life. This popular garden is highly regarded for its breathtaking panoramas and classical Japanese layout, which channel visions from traditional poetry. Additionally, the word "Rikugien" translates to "garden of six poems," the garden does its best to recreate scenes from those six poems and more.

    Moreover, Rikugien Garden offers an immersive cultural experience. The garden is renowned for its meticulously crafted features, each of which embodies the essence of Japanese culture. The meticulously sculpted rocks, carefully manicured trees and stone lanterns are all testaments to Japan's exquisite artistry. Exploring the garden is akin to stepping back in time, immersing oneself in the splendor of Japan's deep cultural heritage.

    Family day at the Tokyo Sea Life Park

    At Tokyo Sea Life Park, you can see a variety of sea creatures up close and also learn about their habitats, behaviors, and conservation efforts to protect them. The facility first opened in 1989 as part of the Tokyo Bay redevelopment project, which aimed to revitalize the city's waterfront. Since then, the park has become a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and it continues to innovate and expand its offerings.

    The giant ocean tank, which holds over 2,000 tons of water, is home to a diverse range of marine species such as crabs, seabirds and even penguins.

    In the sea turtle zone, you can observe these graceful creatures swimming and basking in the sun. The park also features interactive displays that allow you to touch and learn about different types of sea creatures, including starfish, crabs, and sea urchins.

    wisteria festival in tokyo

    So what do Japanese people do during Golden Week?

    During Golden Week, many Japanese people take advantage of the long holiday period to travel domestically or internationally, visit their families, or participate in local festivals and events. It's also a great time to catch up on movies at the cinemas or attend celebratory events. Many locals enjoy having barbecues, camping trips or even whale watching during Golden Week. Some Japanese we’ve talked to would also use this time to stay at home and relax alone or with families. 

    There are also numerous parades, festivals, memorial exhibitions, and lectures at museums during Golden Week that offer exciting and enriching experiences for both locals and tourists. These events are some of the best ways for foreigners to immerse themselves in Japanese culture during Golden Week.

    Most Popular (and Budget-Friendly!) Activities During Golden Week

    1. Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival

    The Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival is a great event for nature lovers and flower enthusiasts. The Showa Memorial Park in Tokyo spans across an impressive 163 hectares and is home to over 1,500 cherry blossom trees (well by the time you’re there it will be tulips and poppies that are blooming), making it one of the largest parks in the city. The festival takes place annually during the spring season, which is typically from late April to early May, when the park is adorned with a stunning array of colorful flowers, including tulips, poppies, and many other varieties.

    Visitors to the festival can immerse themselves in the beauty of nature and smells of the vibrant flowers in bloom. The park also offers various food stalls and activities, making it a perfect spot for families and friends to enjoy a fun-filled day trip.

    Other than the flower festival, the Showa Memorial Park also offers a range of other attractions, including an amusement park, cycling paths, picnic areas, and a Japanese garden, which visitors can also explore throughout the year.

    2. Bunkyo Azalea Festival

    Held in late April to early May at Nezu Shrine, the festival features over 3,000 azalea plants of 100 different species in bloom, transforming the shrine grounds into a sea of bright pinks and purples. Visitors can stroll through the picturesque paths of the shrine's Japanese garden, take in the scenic view of the torii gate framed by the azaleas, and enjoy traditional festival food and drinks. The festival also hosts various cultural events, including taiko drum performances and tea ceremonies, offering visitors a chance to experience the heritage of Japan. With its breathtaking scenery and festive atmosphere, the Bunkyo Azalea Festival is a wonderful destination for anyone looking to fully embrace the beauty of Tokyo's springtime.

    Pro Tip: Present the Azalea Festival pamphlet or map and get a 20% discount for admission to the Bunkyo Mori Ogai Memorial Museum and drinks at the nearby café!

    3. Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

    A fan of springtime flowers? Then the Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival is definitely worth your time. This festival is renowned for showcasing the full bloom of wisteria flowers, which are usually seen in other prefectures such as Tochigi and Fukuoka. However, the beauty of these purple flowers can also be enjoyed at the Tenjin Shrine, located near the Tokyo Skytree. The stunning colors of the wisterias create an awe-inspiring sight that can captivate any nature lover. 

    Additionally, if you happen to visit the festival during the evening, you will be treated to an even more magical experience as the illuminated beauty of the wisterias will leave you mesmerized. There is no better way to spend a spring evening than basking in the radiance of these beautiful flowers. So, don't miss out on this enchanting experience golden week.

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    4. Mount Mitake

    If you are looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Mount Mitake is the perfect place for you. Situated in the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, it offers a serene setting for nature enthusiasts. Mount Mitake is a towering peak that stands at 4165 feet tall, providing spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The ascent up the mountain can take between 60 to 90 minutes, depending on your fitness level and chosen route. For those who prefer an easier route, the Mitaketozan Cable Car is also an option. Once you reach the summit, you can explore the lush forests and picturesque views of the surrounding mountains. 

    If you're up for a longer trek, Mount Odake is just an hour away and offers even more breathtaking views. From the top of these mountains, you can marvel at the stunning views of Mount Mitake. With a variety of hiking routes to choose from, Mount Mitake is an excellent destination for anyone looking to escape the city and immerse themselves in nature.

    Walking through a Japanese shrine

    Golden week activities for those who are not the biggest fan of flowers and nature

    5. Tokyo tower / SkyTree’s Carp Streamers festivals

    Taking place at the Tokyo Tower's observation deck, this festival is named after the tower's height of 333 meters and features hundreds of carp-shaped streamers that are hung around the tower. These streamers are decorated in bright colors and patterns with lights attached, creating a beautiful sight against the backdrop of Tokyo's skyline. The festival is a symbol of good luck and prosperity for children, making it a popular event for families to attend.

    During the same time as the Tokyo Tower's 333 Carp Streamers Festival, the Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer also takes place. Over 600 carp streamers are hung around Tokyo Skytree Town. The streamers are decorated with different colors and designs, making it an extraordinary sight to see. The event also celebrates Children's Day and is meant to bring good luck and prosperity to children. Attendants can enjoy the festive atmosphere and take in the stunning carp streamers.

    6. Latin American Festival in Yoyogi Park

    The Latin American Festival in Yoyogi Park is an annual event that offers plentiful cultural experience that’s not from Japan. The festival has a wide range of activities that cater to people of all ages, including musical performances, traditional dances, and workshops on Latin American art and crafts. The festival attracts many food enthusiasts who come to savor the delicious Latin American cuisine, such as churrascos, tacos, and empanadas. Visitors can also enjoy browsing through the numerous stalls that sell colorful textiles, handcrafted jewelry, and unique souvenirs. With a lively and vibrant atmosphere, the Latin American Festival is a great place to spend a fun-filled day with friends and family.

    7. Niku Fes (aka Tokyo’s annual Meat Festival)

    A meat lover looking for a special and unforgettable experience in Tokyo? Then the annual Niku Fes (Meat Festival) held at Komazawa Olympic Park is a must-go. Here, you can indulge in a variety of meat dishes like Charcoal-grilled Churrasco Steak and a Large Toro steak rice bowl with melting Miyazaki beef. Visitors can expect food prices ranging from 700 yen to around 2000 yen. 

    In addition to the food, the festival also offers a range of live stage performances, including music, dance, and comedy acts. These performances will keep you entertained and add to the lively atmosphere of the festival. It is an exciting opportunity to sample some of the best meat dishes from around the world while immersing yourself in the lively culture of Tokyo.

    8. Itabashi Children Zoo

    If you are looking for a fun family-friendly activity in Tokyo, be sure to visit the Itabashi Children Zoo. This is a perfect place for little ones who love animals, as they can get up close and personal with bunnies, marmots, ponies, and goats. Your kids will be delighted to feed some of these cute creatures such as goats and sheep, and there is even an opportunity to have a guinea pig on their lap. To add to the excitement, pony rides are available every Sunday, giving children the chance to experience horseback riding for the first time. The park is also an excellent spot for a family photo shoot with its lovely gardens and scenic backdrop. Finally, don't forget to pack a delicious lunch as the zoo provides an ideal setting for a lovely picnic. With so much to do and see, the Itabashi Children Zoo is an ideal destination for both families and couples alike.

    Walking in a Japanese forest

    9. Nogeyama Zoological Garden

    Located in close proximity to Sakuragicho Station, Nogeyama Zoological Garden offers a unique and budget-friendly experience for families looking for a fun outing in Tokyo. Although the zoo may be smaller in size compared to others in the city, it makes up for it in its diverse range of animals and interactive exhibits. Kids can enjoy the opportunity to interact with various animals like guinea pigs, chickens, and even mice, providing a hands-on and educational experience. One of the high point of the zoo is the small caged exhibit that visitors can enter for a commemorative photo. The exhibits offers a fun and interactive way to learn about animals in their natural habitats and create lasting memories. Additionally, the zoo also has beautiful gardens that are perfect for a relaxing stroll, providing visitors with a serene and peaceful escape from the bustling city. With free admission, Nogeyama Zoological Garden is definitely worth a go for families looking for an enjoyable and budget-friendly activity in Tokyo.

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    Getting Out of Tokyo During Golden Week

    If you're craving a break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo during Golden Week, consider taking a day trip to one of the many nearby destinations that offer a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. From charming towns to stunning natural landscapes, there are plenty of options to choose from. For example, you could visit the hot spring resort town of Hakone, nestled in the mountains and known for its picturesque views of Mount Fuji. Alternatively, you could explore the historic city of Kamakura, home to numerous temples and shrines as well as a scenic coastline. No matter which place you choose, you'll be able to enjoy a break from the crowds and soak up the natural beauty and culture of Japan.

    1. Matsumoto Castle and the Hot Plaza Asma (Nagano Prefecture)

    Matsumoto, also known as “The Crow Castle,” is a fantastic attraction for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. The stunning 16th century castle boasts an imposing exterior and is one of Japan's most well-known castles. The castle's interior is equally impressive, with intricate wood carvings, samurai armor on display, and various artifacts from different hisotrical period. Other than the castle, the city of Matsumoto also offers a variety of activities for tourists, including exploring the picturesque Nakamachi street lined with traditional Japanese-style buildings or strolling through the beautiful Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

    After a day of sightseeing, you can relax and rejuvenate in the numerous hot springs (onsen) around the area. One of the most popular onsen is the Hot Plaza Asama, which is known for its therapeutic properties due to its mineral-rich water. The onsen is conveniently located near Matsumoto Castle and offers both indoor and outdoor baths. For those looking for a cheaper alternative, the Shirahone Onsen is also a great option. The onsen features milky-white water that is said to have numerous health benefits, and the surrounding mountain scenery provides a serene atmosphere for ultimate relaxation. Whether you prefer a luxurious or budget-friendly onsen experience, Matsumoto has something for everyone.

    2. The “Pink Fields” of Chichibu (Yamanashi Prefecture)

    Looking for a breathtaking natural sight to visit during Greenery Day? There are few better places than the "pink fields" of Chichibu. Located in Hitsujiyama Park in the Yamanashi Prefecture, it offers a one of a kind and unforgettable experience that perfectly complements the nature-themed holiday. While the park is famous for its stunning cherry blossom trees, it's also renowned for the unexpected and strikingly beautiful pink moss that appears during the months of April and May. This vibrant display of color and natural beauty is truly a sight to behold and is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.

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    3. Tosho-Gu shrine (Tochigi Prefecture)

    An absolute must-see for history enthusiasts and those who appreciate the distinctive beauty of Japanese architecture. This Shinto shrine is renowned for its opulence and grandeur, and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind in Japan. Dating back to the 17th century, the Tosho-Gu shrine is steeped in ample history and cultural significance. As a testament to its importance, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ensuring that it will continue to be preserved and celebrated for generations to come.

    4. Hamamatsu Kite Festival (Shizuoka Prefecture)

    The Hamamatsu Kite Festival, features giant kites that are flown in the sky. These kites are so large that they can be compared to the size of a human. Traditionally, the festival honored the first-born sons of families by inscribing their names on the kites. However, the celebration has evolved over time, and now it includes all of their children, with the festival taking place on Children's Day.

    In addition to the impressive size of the kites, the festival has a competitive edge as well. Neighborhoods compete against each other in kite battles, where groups attempt to cut through the cords of the opposing kites using friction. This tradition of kite fighting has been around for hundreds of years, and it adds an element of excitement and anticipation to the festival.

    If you’re visiting Hamamatsu during golden week, you can expect to see a vibrant and lively celebration that showcases a unique aspect of Japanese culture. From the giant kites that soar through the sky to the competitive kite battles, the festival is a truly unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the country's extensive history and traditions.

    Solo travel to Mount Fuji during golden week

    5. Hakata Dontaku Festival (Fukuoka Prefecture)

    An absolute must-see for history enthusiasts and those who appreciate the distinctive beauty of Japanese architecture. This Shinto shrine is renowned for its opulence and grandeur, and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind in Japan. Dating back to the 17th century, the Tosho-Gu shrine is steeped in ample history and cultural significance. As a testament to its importance, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ensuring that it will continue to be preserved and celebrated for generations to come.

    6. Lake Ashi Camping Village (Kanagawa Prefecture)

    When you want to get away from the bustling crowd, Lake Ashi Camping Village in Hakone is the perfect choice. This quick city getaway near Tokyo features a rental villa that is safe for beginners to camp, a camping site where you can fully enjoy the nature of Lake Ashi, and a BBQ garden that you can use even on a day trip. Moreover, there are activities such as cycling around Hakone and fishing in Lake Ashi for those wanting a full experience.

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    3 Golden Week Itineraries Recommended by our Japanese Staff

    Below, you can find some of our favorite itineraries for Golden Week, as outlined by our dedicated Japanese staff. These itineraries might take you to more crowded spots, but will definitely be worth it.

    Itinerary 1: (Ideal for Families)

    (April 29) Day 1: Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival + National Showa Memorial Museum

    • Morning: Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival

      This is one of the largest flower festivals in Tokyo, featuring over 8 million flowers in bloom, including cherry blossoms, tulips, and azaleas. Spend a few hours walking around the park and taking in the stunning scenery.
    • Afternoon: National Showa Memorial Museum

      Located within the Memorial Park, the museum showcases the history and culture of the Showa era in Japan. You can spend some time here to fully explore the exhibits.

    • Evening: [Restaurant] 

    (April 30) Day 2: Day Trip to the “Crow Castle” of Matsumoto

    • Morning: Matsumoto Castle

      Matsumoto is a picturesque city located in Nagano Prefecture, known for its beautiful mountain views and the famous Matsumoto Castle (also known as the “Crow Castle”).
    • Afternoon: Streets of Matsumoto

      In the afternoon, stroll around the charming streets of Matsumoto, stopping by local shops and restaurants.

    • Evening: [Local Izakaya in Matsumoto]

    (May 1) Day 3: Yoyogi Park Latin American Festival + Disney’s Easter

    • Morning: Yoyogi Park & Latin American Festival

      The Yoyogi Park Latin American Festival provides a lively event that celebrates the culture and music of Latin America. Spend a few hours here to enjoy the food, dance, and music performances by various artists.
    • Afternoon: Tokyo Disneyland

      Head to Tokyo Disneyland and enjoy the Easter celebration. Immerse yourself in Disneyworld and its atmosphere and decorations, shows, and parades.

    • Evening & Night: [Dinner inside Tokyo Disneyland]

    (May 2) Day 4: Odawara Castle + Odawara Kodomo Yuenchi

    • Morning: Odawara City

      Continue you 4th day to Odawara City in Kanagawa Prefecture and visit the beautiful Odawara Castle. Spend some time exploring the castle grounds and learning about its rich history.
    • Afternoon: Odawara Kodomo Yuenchi

      A family-friendly amusement park that features various rides, games, and attractions for children of all ages. Spend the afternoon here and enjoy the park's facilities and games.

    • Evening: [Restaurant in Odawara]

    (May 3) Day 5: National Diet Building in Chiyoda + Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park

    • Morning: National Diet

      Start your 5th day by visiting the National Diet Building in Chiyoda, where the Japanese government is housed. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of the building and its role in Japanese politics.
    • Afternoon: Tokyo National Museum

      This afternoon will take you to the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park, which showcases various art collections and artifacts from Japan and other Asian countries.

    • Evening: [Restaurant in Shibuya]

    (May 4) Day 6: Arakawa Yuenchi + Bunkyo Azalea Festival at Nezu Shrine

    • Morning: Arakawa Yuenchi

      A retro-style amusement park that features various rides, games, and attractions for all ages. Spend a few hours here and enjoy the park.
    • Afternoon: Bunkyo Azalea Festival

      Held at the Nezu Shrine, it is known for its beautiful azalea garden. Spend an hour hour walking around the garden and taking in the beautiful scenery.

    • Evening: [Restaurant in Ikebukuro]

    (May 5) Day 7: Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival + Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

    • Morning & Afternoon: Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival

      End your trip by visiting the Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival, which takes place in Sumida City. Enjoy the Sky Tree Wown in the afternoon and watch hundreds of carp-shaped streamers hanging on top of the town.

    • Evening: [Restaurant in around Sky Tree Tower]
    Japanese Castle to go during Golden Week
    Logo with white background and soft corners

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    Itinerary 2: (Perfect for Couples)

    (April 29) Day 1: Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival + National Showa Memorial Museum

    • Morning: Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival

      The festival takes place in late April/early May. This expansive park is located in Tachikawa City, about 40 minutes west of central Tokyo by train. The Flower Festival features thousands of cherry blossoms, tulips, and other seasonal flowers, as well as food vendors and cultural performances. You can expect to spend around 2-3 hours walking around and enjoying the sights and smells of springtime in Japan.
    • Afternoon: National Showa Memorial Museum

      After the Flower Festival, head to the National Showa Memorial Museum, which is located within the park. The museum is dedicated to the Showa era (1926-1989) and features exhibits on Japan's modern history, including World War II and the postwar period of rapid economic growth. Spend a couple of hours exploring the exhibits and learning more about Japan's recent past.
    • Evening: [Restaurant in Jinbōchō]

    (April 30) Day 2: Day Trip to the “Pink Fields” of Chichibu

    • Morning: Chichibu

      Your second day begins in Chichibu, a rural area northwest of Tokyo known for its beautiful "pink fields" of shibazakura (moss phlox) flowers. The best time to see the flowers is late April/early May, when they're in full bloom. You can take a train from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo to Seibu-Chichibu Station, which takes about 90 minutes.
    • Afternoon: Hitsujiyama Park

      From the Seibu-Chichibu Station, you can take a bus or taxi to Hitsujiyama Park, where the shibazakura fields are located. Spend the afternoon walking around the park, taking photos, and enjoying the stunning views.
    • Evening: [Restaurant in Tokyo]

    (May 1) Day 3: Ashikaga Flower Park (Outside Tokyo) + Niku Fes

    • Morning & Afternoon: Ashikaga Flower Park

      Located in Tochigi Prefecture about 2 hours north of Tokyo by train, the Ashikaga Flower Park park is famous for its wisteria flowers, which bloom in late April/early May and create a beautiful purple canopy overhead. Spend a few hours walking around the park and admiring the flowers, which are illuminated at night for an extra magical experience.
    • Evening: Niku Fes

      A meat festival held in Yoyogi Park. This festival features all kinds of grilled and roasted meats, as well as craft beer and live music. Spend a couple of hours indulging in your carnivorous cravings and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

    (May 2) Day 4: Day Trip to Takasaki, the origin of the Daruma good luck tradition

    • Morning & Afternoon: Takasaki

      A city in Gunma Prefecture about 1.5 hours north of Tokyo by train. Takasaki is known as the birthplace of the Daruma doll, which is a symbol of good luck and perseverance in Japan. You can visit the Daruma-dera temple, where the first Daruma doll was created, and purchase your own Daruma doll as a souvenir. Spend some time exploring the temple and learning about the history and significance of the Daruma tradition.
    • Evening: [Dinner at local Restaurant]

    (May 3) Day 5: Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park + Bunkyo Azalea Festival at Nezu Shrine

    • Morning: Tokyo National Museum

      Located in Ueno Park in central Tokyo, the museum is Japan's oldest and largest museum, with a vast collection of art and artifacts from Japan and other Asian countries. Spend the morning browsing the exhibits and learning about Japan's deep cultural heritage.
    • Afternoon: Nezu Shrine

      Head to Nezu Shrine in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo for the Bunkyo Azalea Festival. This festival features over 3000 azalea plants in bloom, creating a beautiful display of pink and white flowers. There are food and drink vendors, as well as cultural performances and activities. Spend a couple of hours enjoying the festival and taking in the beauty of the azaleas.
    • Evening: [Restaurant

    (May 4) Day 6: Fuji Shibazakura Festival (alternatively, you can also head out to Mt. Fuji, Japan’s inactive volcano)

    • Morning & Afternoon: Fuji Shibazakura Festival

      This will be an early day as you’re going to Fuji Shibazakura Festival. This is a popular springtime event held in the Fuji Five Lakes region, located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The festival is famous for its stunning views of shibazakura, which is a type of pink moss that blooms in large fields, creating a picturesque landscape. You can expect to spend your whole day in the festival and the regions around the Five Lakes region.
    • Evening: [Restaurant back in Tokyo]

    (May 5) Day 7: Tokyo Tower 333 Carp Streamers + Latin American Festival

    • Morning & Afternoon: Tokyo Tower

      On your last day of golden week, visit the good old Tokyo Tower to see the annual 333 Carp Streamers event, which takes place from late April to early May. The event features hundreds of colorful carp streamers hung around the tower’s town, creating a beautiful view that can only be seen during golden week. Spend some time taking photos and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

    Evening: Latin American Festival

    The Latin American Festival takes place in Odaiba. This festival features Latin American food, music, dance, and cultural performances, as well as a lively carnival atmosphere. Spend 2-3 hours enjoying the festivities and soaking up the lively energy of the festival.

    Couple going to Matsuri

    Ready for Golden Week festivals the Japanese way? Check out:

    Ultimate Guide to Yukata vs Kimono!

    Itinerary 3: (Suggested for Solo Travelers)

    (April 29) Day 1: Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival + National Showa Memorial Museum

    • Morning: Showa Kinen Park Flower Festival

      Start your solo trip by immersing yourself in the beauty of nature at the Showa Kinen Park Flower Festival. Admire the stunning display of colorful flowers and take in the fresh air.
    • Afternoon: National Showa Memorial Museum

      Afterward, visit the National Showa Memorial Museum to learn about Japan's history during the Showa era. Spend around 3-4 hours at the park and 1-2 hours at the museum.


    • Evening: [Restaurant in Shibuya]

    (April 30) Day 2: Day Trip to the “Crow Castle” of Matsumoto + Shirahone Onsen

    • Morning: "Crow Castle" of Matsumoto

      Your second day begins at the historic "Crow Castle" of Matsumoto, one of Japan's premier historic castles, and admire its profound black exterior.
    • Afternoon: Shirahone Onsen

      A famous hot spring town known for its milky white water. Touring around the castle will take you about 2 hours maximum. It takes about 2.5 hours to get from Tokyo to Matsumoto by train, and then another 1.5 hours to Shirahone Onsen.


    • Evening: [Restaurant in Matsumoto]

    (May 1) Day 3: Yoyogi Park Latin American Festival

    • Morning & Afternoon: Yoyogi Park Latin American Festival

      Immerse yourself in the stunning Latin American culture at Yoyogi Park's annual festival. Experience live music, dancing, and delicious food from various Latin American countries. You can spend the whole day at the festival, as there will be plenty to see and do.


    • Evening: [Restaurant in Yoyogi]

    (May 2) Day 4: Odawara Castle + Niku Fes

    • Morning: Odawara Castle

      Your 5th day begins by exploring the historic Odawara Castle, which played a crucial role in Japanese history during the feudal period. Take a walk through the castle's grounds and admire the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring.
    • Afternoon & Evening: Niku Fes

      Head to Hakone and attend the Niku Fes, a meat festival featuring various grilled and BBQ dishes. Spend around 2-3 hours at the castle and the rest of the day at the festival.

    (May 3 and 4) Day 5-6: 2 Day trip to Fukuoka

    • Fukuoka & Hakata Dontaku Festival

      For the next two days, let’s get away from Tokyo and travel to the city of Fukuoka. The Hakata Dontaku Festival is one of Japan's most energetic and famous festivals. Join the locals in parades, dancing, and various street performances. Although there are so much more to see and do and eat in Fukuoka. In fact, we have an article on the Top 21 Things to Do in Fukuoka that will tell you how to enjoy your two days to the fullest.

    (May 5) Day 7: Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival + Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

    • Afternoon: Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival

      End your solo trip by travellingt back to Tokyo, and attending the Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival. Hundreds of colorful carp streamers are flown high in the sky around the Tokyo Skytree Town, creating a beautiful and lively atmosphere. You can expect to spend the afternoon here.(I’d imagine you want to wake up late after all the fun in Fukuoka.)
    • Evening: Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

      Head to the Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival to see the stunning purple flowers in full bloom. Spend around 1-2 hours at each festival.

    Night: [Restaurant in Shinjuku]

    Note: The time estimates for each activity are just a rough guideline, and you can adjust them based on your personal preferences and interests. Also, make sure to check the event dates and schedules beforehand as they may change from year to year.

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    Golden Week Vocabulary

    It’s useful to familiarize words and phrases that are often used during this time. So here are a few:






    Golden Week



    (Traditional name for) Golden Week



    shōwa no hi

    Showa Day


    kenpō kinenbi

    Constitution Day


    midori no hi

    Greenery Day


    kodomo no hi

    Children’s Day

    *In 大型連休 (ōgatarenkyū), ‘大型’ (ōgata) means ‘big’ and ‘連休’ (renkyū) means ‘consecutive holidays’ but it’s also called黄金週間 (ōgon shūkan).

    To this day, there are huge carp streamers which are called 鯉のぼり (koi no bori). Moreover, there are two Japanese seasonal sweets that are eaten: 柏餅 (kashiwa mochi), which are rice cakes stuffed with red bean paste and wrapped in kashiwa or oak leaves. The other seasonal sweet is called ちまき (chimaki), which is a Japanese dumpling wrapped in a leaf (either bamboo, banana, or reed) and steamed.

    When wishing someone a great Golden Week politely, you can say this phrase:


    yoi gōrudenwēku wo osugoshi kudasai

    Have a great Golden Week!

    When people start to leave urban areas, especially Tokyo at the start of Golden Week, the traffic rush caused by travel activity is called 帰省ラッシュ (kisei rashū), where ‘帰省’ (kisei) means ‘returning home’ and ‘ラッシュ’ (rashū) means ‘rush’.

    During Golden Week, and especially on the days where people travel, traffic jams or 渋滞 (jūtai) are expected.

    On the other hand, when Golden Week is ending and people start returning to urban areas, especially Tokyo, this traffic rush is called Uターンラッシュ (U tān rashū). Looking at it closely, the term is similar to a ‘U-turn’ sign, where cars make the turn to go back in the direction from which it came.

    Rush Hours of Golden Week

    When people start to leave urban areas, it'll get very busy. This is especially true in Tokyo at the start of Golden Week. The traffic rush caused by travel activity is called 帰省ラッシュ (kisei rashū), where ‘帰省’ (kisei) means ‘returning home’ and ‘ラッシュ’ (rashū) means ‘rush’.

    During Golden Week, and especially on the days where people travel, traffic jams or 渋滞 (jūtai) are expected.

    On the other hand, when it is ending and people start returning to urban areas, especially Tokyo, this traffic rush is called Uターンラッシュ (U tān rashū). Looking at it closely, the term is actually similar to a ‘U-turn’ sign, where cars make the turn to go back in the direction from which it came.

    Want to learn more Japanese words? Check out:

    Useful Japanese Phrases & Top 1000 Japanese Words You Need to Know

    7 Stress-Reducing Tips for a Better Golden Week

    Last but not least, here are seven quick tips on how to avoid stress from the crowds and chaos on Golden Week.

    1. Avoid crowds 

    While we’ve focused heavily on Tokyo in this article, if crowds make you nauseous, you’d do better to avoid places like the capital, Kyoto, Osaka, etc. In other words, choose less touristy spots in Japan and explore the countryside instead.

    2. Plan ahead

    Since trains and attractions tend to get crowded during Golden Week, book seats beforehand to avoid momentary stress. That is to say, it’s important to note that most travelers plan 3 to 6 months in advance, including hotels, tours, airline tickets, and reserved train seating.

    japan crowd during golden week

    3. Bring cash

    It’s not uncommon to find restaurants and places in Japan where cash is the only paying option, so don’t rely on your card. Moreover, expect the possibility of having no nearby ATM machines, especially when you decide to travel farther.

    4. Leave time for souvenir shopping 

    It would be a shame to go home empty-handed, so make sure to leave space in the itinerary for souvenir shopping. Moreover, check out interesting souvenirs sold during festivals and be on the lookout for stores that sell Golden Week exclusive items especially for foreigners.

    5. Ensure Internet access 

    Naturally, people celebrating Golden Week will want to share experiences, but to do that, a portable Wi-Fi or mobile data source is a must. Alternatively, you can buy special SIM cards either online or at local stores in Japan.

    6. Give yourself room

    Golden Week can get strenuous with its 7 days of celebrating. This is why it's recommended to give yourself room. In other words, take time for a day trip, an overnight trip, or really just a break from the busy city somewhere in the middle of that busy week.

    7. Don’t stress if you don’t get to see everything

    After all, Golden Week is an experience, not a checkbox list. Enjoy!

    Watching Hanabi during Golden Week

    Final thoughts

    As one of the busiest times in Japan, Golden Week can be a daunting experience for many visitors. The throngs of people and seemingly endless rush hour in train stations can certainly take a toll on one's nerves. However, with a little planning and strategy, you can turn this potentially stressful experience into one of the most rewarding in Japan. Consider mapping out your itinerary in advance, making sure to include the top attractions you want to see and factoring in ample time for travel and rest. 

    Alternatively, you can embrace the crowds and let them lead you on a spontaneous adventure through Tokyo's bustling streets. Just be sure to take breaks and find quiet moments to recharge your batteries, so you don't return home more frazzled than when you left for your week-long holiday. Whatever approach you choose, Golden Week in Tokyo is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

    If you’re looking for things to do around Tokyo, then check out the following guides made byr our professional staff!

    Ultimate Guide to Shopping in a Japanese Supermarket
    Our Favorite Things to Do in Ikebukuro
    Ultimate Guide to Sumo Wrestling

    2 Ebooks to Jump Start your Japanese

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