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Ultimate Guide to Golden Week

By Kristine |  March 2022

Golden Week is one of the most exciting, and well-known holidays in Japanese culture. It is a cluster of multiple holidays, all crammed together over the space of one week, and it’s a big reason for celebration in Japan. Traditionally, people head out during Golden Week, and celebrate it in style, alongside the locals. It is recommend that, as a foreigner in Japan, you do the same, in order to fully get a feel of the local customs and holidays.

In the lines below, we aim to give you as complete an introduction to Golden Week as possible. We’ll talk about what Golden Week is, exactly, why it’s celebrated, and how. Even more importantly, we will give you some ideas on how you can celebrate this holiday in an affordable manner. Lastly, how you can cope with this highly-stressful holiday.

This article is a part of our extensive series on learning about Japanese Culture through online Japanese lessons at Japan Switch.

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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, it is generally a massive one-week holiday for Japanese people. Since most Japanese people get time off work during this time, there’s a desire to go out and celebrate. In this way, they'll make the most out of it. Traditionally, Golden Week is a very busy time in Japan, with many Japanese people taking this opportunity to go on a 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 will be talked a bit about later on. Hence, there’s never any shortage of things you can do during Golden Week.

    children day festival with carp streamers in golden week

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    When does Golden Week take place?

    Traditionally, the celebration happens 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 these dates are national holidays, many companies have decided to give time off throughout Golden Week. After all, 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, "travel bug" has took over Japan during Golden Week. This is when many Japanese people go abroad, or at the very least, travel to a resort of some sort.

    Brief History - How Golden Week Came About

    You’re probably wondering how the week-long celebration started. Well, it’s time for a bit of history. While it is a national holiday overdrive, the term actually comes from the cinema industry.

    It started during the mid-20th century. After the new Japanese Constitution of 1947, Japanese people started enjoying a lot more spare time, with this cluster of holidays. 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”. His movie even got record sales during that year’s Golden Week (though it hadn’t been named that yet).

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

    geisha walking around old town in japan

    Apparently, the term stuck. Everyone from advertising companies to restaurants, travel agencies, and even movie studios gear up early every year for Golden Week. It was like a loop, with stores and companies advertising heavily for Golden Week. In fact, it was much like how Western companies do for Valentine’s Day, for example. As was to be expected, leisure activities across the country saw a veritable boom during Golden Week. To this day, many people still opt for a quick nip abroad during this extended free time.

    Interestingly enough, it was also Matsuyama who later coined the term “Silver Week." This describes a similar string of national holidays taking place every year in September.

    Interested in the culture of Japan? Check out:

    Ultimate Guide to Japanese Culture! 

    The 4 Holidays of Golden Week

    In total, there are fifteen recognized national Japanese holidays, scattered throughout the year. And Golden Week makes up a whopping four of these. During this week, Japanese people traditionally celebrate Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. May 1st (aka May Day) also falls during Golden Week. It’s interesting to note that it has become customary for many employers to also give employees time off. Now, let’s see what these holidays that make up Golden Week are, exactly, and how they came to be celebrated in Japanese culture.

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    Showa Day

    Let's begin with one of the most important national holidays in Japanese culture. Showa Dayo (Showa No Hi) marks the birthday of Emperor Showa, on the 29th of April. Unfortunately, he was only known as Emperor Showa posthumously. However, during his lifetime, he was referred to as Emperor Hirohito. To keep things simple, we will refer to him as Emperor Showa throughout.

    It is tradition in Japan for the current emperor’s birthday to be marked a national holiday. However, when Emperor Showa passed away, this tradition was passed on to his son, Emperor Akihito. Moreover, given the glorious nature of Showa’s rule, the Japanese government decided to keep a national holiday in his honor. Traditionally, this was celebrated on Greenery Day. However, the two holidays were later separated. But first things first, who was this emperor?

    Who was Emperor Showa?

    As the 124th Japanese Emperor, Emperor Showa reigned from 1926 to 1989. In addition, he was the grandfather of Japan’s current monarch, Emperor Naruhito. The emperor ruled over Japan during some of its most troublesome and conflicting years. Consequently, this has singled him out as an even more glorious ruler. “Showa” translates to “enlightened/shining peace”, and is an apt reflection of the Emperor’s rule. Indeed, he occupied the throne during seismic times. In fact, his reign encompassed the devastating effects of World War 2, as well as other important events, such as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

    Showa Day is more than just another national holiday, however, or rather, one with an interesting message. While it’s also meant to mark the Emperor’s reign, it is traditionally observed as a time for reflection on the country’s fascinating history. Because of this, traditional celebrations tend to steer clear of flashy or overly joyous displays. Instead, popular traditions include picnics, shrine visits, and cherry blossom viewings. Alternatively, one might also choose to visit the Musashino Imperial Mausoleum, where Emperor Showa is buried. There is also the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, where visitors learn more about the period.

    Constitution Day

    Most countries in the world celebrate this holiday, according to their own individual histories. Japan is no different. Constitution Day in Japan is celebrated on May 3rd. This is in memory of the day the country’s current constitution came into force (May 3rd, 1947).

    Also known as Kenpō Kinenbi, or the Peace Constitution, it marked a big change in the country’s history, shifting away from the previous Meiji Constitution. As a matter of fact, it was a mix of constitutional and absolute monarchy. In the Meiji Constitution, the Emperor was the supreme leader of the country. On the other hand, the Prime Minister acted solely as the leader of the government (and was elected by a Privy Council).

    After the WWII bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American occupation on Japan came in 1946. During this time, it was decided that severe changes ought to be made to the constitution. In other words, focusing on pacifism and freedom. As a result, the current Japanese Constitution was modeled heavily on the American Constitution, or other European Constitution types.

    The New Constitution

    It also focused heavily on giving people access to more human rights, as well as more power. As such, this was decreed that power lay with the people, not the Emperor. In other words, the Emperor could only be a “symbol of the state and the unity of the people." Under the new Constitution, Japan also renounced war (as well as its previous interest in military expansion). Instead, Japan vowed to focus on human rights and peace. It was an unprecedented move in the history of the world’s longest continuous hereditary lineage.

    Like Showa Day, Constitution Day is a somewhat sober and subdued affair. During this day, several buildings that are traditionally closed to the public open their gates. One of which is the National Diet Building in Chiyoda. There are also annual lectures at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park about the importance of the new constitution.

    Greenery Day

    Originally celebrated on Emperor Showa’s birthday, April 29th, Greenery Day was relocated to make room for Showa Day. The reason behind this was that since May 4th was already an “in-between day” (falling between Constitution Day and Children’s Day), it might as well serve as the new Greenery Day. In addition, it was actually required by law that any such “in-between day” be also marked as a national day. Consequently, this transition was made in 2007. Though the original Greenery Day was established in 1989, after the death of Emperor Showa, to celebrate his rule, as well as his love for plants.

    Hence, this takes us back to how many people find the fascinating character of Emperor Showa as a private and composed individual. As an Emperor, he was solemn and dignified. But as an individual, his true nature shone through. That is to say, he was one of an eager and curious individual with a love for learning. At age 12, the future Emperor started studying the wild flowers of Shiobara, alongside his brother Prince Chichibu. From here, a lifelong love of nature followed.

    "Botanical Garden Day"

    The National Afforestation Campaign celebrated Greenery Day, also known as Midori No Hi, Arbor Day and famously as Botanical Garden Day. During the main events, Her Majesty The Empress and the Emperor, himself, typically attend.

    As you might expect, there are numerous tree planting activities held throughout the country on May 4th, in honor of Arbor Day. Hence, it is recommended that people spend this holiday communing with nature. If planting trees doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you can go for a cup of tea instead. No, you didn’t read that wrong. During this time, the harvesting of some of the tastiest green tea leaves takes place, so people can have a nice cuppa to celebrate Greenery Day. Alternatively, they can take a long walk along streets decorated with paper lanterns, spend the day in a park, or even out in the country.

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    Children’s Day

    Last but certainly not least, we have Tango No Sekku, aka Children’s Day. This is celebrated on the 5th of May every year. Moreover, it also marks the closing of Golden Week. By far, this is the oldest holiday to take place during the week-long celebration! Seeing that the first Children’s Day (also sometimes referred to as Boy’s Day) was celebrated all the way back during the Nara Period (710-94).

    Of course, Japan isn’t the only country to celebrate Children’s Day. Many European countries also observe this holiday on June 1st. Similarly in other places, Children’s Day is an occasion to celebrate. Most importantly, it is also to pray for your offspring’s wellbeing and the safety of the entire family.

    children day festival with carp streamers in golden week

    "Gosekku"

    In Japan, Children’s Day is one of the country’s gosekku or Japan’s five sacred festivals. The other gosekku are first held on the 1st of the 1st month (aka the New Year). Second, the 3rd of the 3rd month (Hinamatsuri, or Girl’s Day, traditionally celebrated with wine and poetry). Third, 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.

    Traditionally, families celebrate Children’s Day with their sons 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 also events celebrating children throughout the country, such as comedic shows (kyogen), and other celebrations.

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    What to know before you start planning…

    So you’re ready to head out and enjoy yourself during Golden Week, right? Well, before that happens, there are a couple of things worth remembering. First of all, this week-long celebration isn’t the string of revelry you might’ve expected. With Showa Day and Constitution Day marking rather somber affairs, it can be an excellent opportunity to reflect on Japan’s exciting and versatile history. In fact, it can also be a time to learn more and delve into the country’s complex past.

    Ideally, try to find a balance between more commercial celebrations, like visiting a restaurant, a movie theater, or even a pricey resort, and observing the traditional meaning of these holidays. Golden Week should be a time for relaxation and enjoyment. However, it should also be one for gaining a better understanding of Japan’s past.

    When planning for Golden Week, try to do so in advance. In this way, it can help ensure that you find spots at whatever attraction or event you’ve got your eyes on, especially at popular tourist sites. This goes without saying that for those who plan to visit theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland or Universal Studios Japan, make sure to buy tickets at an earlier date and secure fast passes. In this way, it can also save you from having to deal with the inflated prices during Golden Week. Speaking of which, expect to see higher prices than usual during this time, and keep those in mind when planning your itinerary to avoid unpleasant surprises.

    Free Admissions During Golden Week (Tokyo)

    During Japan’s busiest time of the year, getting free admissions is 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 these are usually for children so it’s best to check for the age requirements of the place or attraction. Currently, many places are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 but there are a few places that are still open and offer free admissions. Here are a couple of our staff-favorites:

    art exhibit in edo tokyo museum

    As one of the oldest zoos in Japan, Ueno Zoo has many exciting attractions to enjoy, especially with family. From the East Garden, sightseeing attractions such as the Bear Hill, Tiger Forest, and Gorilla Forest are not to be missed out on. There are also other animals such as the Asiatic elephants and other exotic animals. On the other hand, the West Garden is full of African hoofed animals. For an up-close experience with animals, children can go to the Children’s Zoo section, where they can have direct contact with domesticated animals.

    This museum in Ryogoku has many historical cultural exhibitions, as well as, facilities inside such as restaurants, video rooms, and even a library. Along with miniature structure displays such as samurai houses, these fascinating exhibits focus on the history during the Edo period. Some unique replicas of actual life-sized buildings look absolutely amazing!

    This is an art museum in Minato with a mix of Western and traditional Japanese architecture. Built in 1933, the museum was then the residence of Prince Asaka. Now, the exhibits reflect the history of royalty in Japan. Moreover, this art museum also has a tea house and a well-kept Japanese garden with a pond.

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    So what do Japanese people do during Golden Week?

    There is always a little something for everybody. And that's what makes this cluster of events great. Regardless if someone is looking for something unique, adventurous, nature-focused, expensive, etc., there's bound to be a Golden Week activity that’ll suit everyone's desires.

    Typically, Japanese people will take advantage of this free time to travel extensively. Whether it is taking a short local trip, planning a big holiday abroad or even just visiting their hometowns, Golden Week is one of the nation’s favorite times for travel.

    When not on the road, they will typically spend Golden Week with their families, taking pictures, or participating in the many celebratory events. Many of them have barbecues near a lake, go camping, and even go whale watching. During Golden Week, you can visit parades, festivals, as well as memorial exhibitions and lectures at museums. Incidentally, these are also some of the best activities you can indulge in as a foreigner.

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

    Tokyo Tower

    If you’re spending Golden Week in Tokyo, you can go down to the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree, to view their impressive flying carp streamer displays. The Tokyo Tower displays precisely 333 LED-powered carp streamers to celebrate Children’s Day.

    Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival

    For those that want to take in nature, there are many themed events taking place in the city. One of which is the Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival. In this festival, it features a variety of flowers such as tulips and poppies. Moreover, there are guided tours, photo contests and even stamp rallies that are scheduled throughout the festival. There is also the Bunkyo Azalea Festival at the Nezu Shrine (near the Tokyo Skytree), which is only available until the 6th of May. 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!

    Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

    For those wanting to see the full bloom of wisteria flowers, the Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival is also one of the most popular flower festivals that should be experienced. Although it’s usually seen in other prefectures, these purple flowers are also best seen in the Tenjin Shrine. The shrine is located near the Tokyo Skytree. And when you still have time to spare, stay a little longer after sunset to enjoy the illuminated beauty of wisterias.

    wisteria festival in tokyo

    Mount Mitake

    When you prefer a nature-focused activity with less crowds, hiking in Mount Mitake would be a great choice. Located in the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, it stands 3048 ft tall and takes about 60 to 90 minutes trekking up. However, you can always take the easy route and ride the Mitaketozan Cable Car. Finally, if you reached the summit and still haven’t had enough, Mount Odake is an hour away.

    Latin American Festival

    There are also a number of fun festivals, like the Latin American Festival in Yoyogi Park, which has an international theme. In fact, the festival hosts many fun activities for the whole family! Moreover, it’s also worth a visit if you crave Latin American food such as churrascos and tacos. Alternatively, you can opt for something more traditional with the Niku Fes (aka Tokyo’s annual Meat Festival). This is held at Komazawa Olympic Park, which features meat dishes from various countries, alongside many traditional recipes. To top it all off, there will also be various stage performances that will liven it up.

    Itabashi Children Zoo

    For more family fun, visit places like the Itabashi Children Zoo, where the little ones will get to see bunnies, marmots, ponies, and goats. Not to mention kids can feed some animals such as goats and sheep and can even have a guinea pig stay on their laps! Keep in mind that pony rides are available every Sunday. Moreover, if lunch is packed, the family can enjoy a lovely picnic in the park.

    Nogeyama Zoological Garden

    Situated near the Sakuragicho Station, Nogeyama Zoological Garden is somewhat the smaller zoo. However, it has the advantage of free admission, which makes it a great family budget-friendly activity. This zoo is also a place where children can interact with some animals such as guinea pigs, chickens, and even mice! Moreover, there’s a small caged exhibit so visitors can go inside for a commemorative photo. However, be warned that there is an uncanny sign outside that says ‘ヒト’ (hito) which means ‘person'. 

    Getting Out of Tokyo During Golden Week

    If you like, you can choose to leave Tokyo, and go on one of the many day trips available in the vicinity or a bit farther, to celebrate Golden Week in a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.

    Matsumoto Castle

    Most popularly known as “The Crow Castle,” this six-story castle tower is a famous destination for one or two-day trips. The gorgeous 16th-century castle is one of Japan’s most well-known castles, with its imposing black exterior. And while you’re around the area, soak in the plethora of Japanese hot springs (onsen) at the Hot Plaza Asama. The scenic hot springs is known for its healing properties, enveloped in nature all year-round. But if you prefer a cheaper alternative, the Shirahone Onsen, which is known for its milky-white water and mountain scenery, is just as good.

    Hamamatsu Kite Festival

    There are also exciting festivals such as Hamamatsu Kite Festival, where giant kites (think human size!) are flown with families' first sons' names on them. However, this tradition has evolved and included all their children, who are also celebrated during Children's Day. Moreover, competing neighborhoods use the giant kites for group kite battles, where groups attempt to cut through other kites' cords using friction.

    Hakata Dontaku Festival

    Another event worth celebrating is the Hakata Dontaku Festival in Fukuoka. This is Japan's largest Golden Week festival held on the 3rd and 4th of May every year. It is a 2-day event that features parades, flower cars, and a wide variety of performances!

    japanese wearing traditional clothes for festival during golden week

    Hitsujiyama Park

    The “pink fields” of Chichibu are another excellent destination, one in line with the nature theme of Greenery Day. Located in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Hitsujiyama Park is known for its cherry blossom trees, but also for the unusual pink moss that springs up during April and May.

    Tosho-Gu Shrine

    In the town of Nikko, this Shinto shrine is worth visiting as part of your incursion into Japan’s rich and gorgeous history. One of the more lavish shrines of its kind, Tosho-Gu dates back to the 17th century and is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage program.

    Lake Ashi Camping Village

    When you want to get away from the bustling crowd, Lake Ashi Camping Village in Hakone is a 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, find some of our favorite itineraries for Golden Week, as our dedicated Japanese staff has outlined. These itineraries might take you to more crowded spots, but will definitely be worth it.

    japan solo traveling during golden week

    Itinerary 1: (Ideal for Families)

    April 29

    Day 1:

    Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival + National Showa Memorial Museum

    April 30

    Day 2:

    Day Trip to the “Crow Castle” of Matsumoto

    May 1

    Day 3:

    Yoyogi Park Latin American Festival + Disney’s Easter

    May 2

    Day 4:

    Odawara Castle + Odawara Kodomo Yuenchi

    May 3

    Day 5:

    National Diet Building in Chiyoda + Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park

    May 4

    Day 6:

    Arakawa Yuenchi + Bunkyo Azalea Festival at Nezu Shrine

    May 5

    Day 7:

    Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival + Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

    Itinerary 2: (Perfect for Couples)

    April 29

    Day 1:

    Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival + National Showa Memorial Museum

    April 30

    Day 2:

    Day Trip to the “Pink Fields” of Chichibu

    May 1

    Day 3:

    Ashikaga Flower Park (outside Tokyo) + Niku Fes

    May 2

    Day 4:

    Day Trip to Takasaki, the origin of the Daruma good luck tradition

    May 3

    Day 5:

    Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park + Bunkyo Azalea Festival at Nezu Shrine

    May 4

    Day 6:

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

    May 5

    Day 7:

    Tokyo Tower 333 Carp Streamers + Latin American Festival

    Itinerary 3: (Suggested for Solo Travelers)

    April 29

    Day 1:

    Showa Memorial Park Flower Festival + National Showa Memorial Museum

    April 30

    Day 2:

    Day Trip to the “Crow Castle” of Matsumoto + Shirahone Onsen

    May 1

    Day 3:

    Yoyogi Park Latin American Festival

    May 2

    Day 4:

    Odawara Castle + Niku Fes

    May 3

    Day 5:

    Hakata Dontaku Festival in Fukuoka (Day 1)

    May 4

    Day 6:

    Hakata Dontaku Festival in Fukuoka (Day 2)

    May 5

    Day 7:

    Tokyo Skytree Town Carp Streamer Festival + Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria Festival

    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

    Japanese

    Romaji

    English

    ゴールデンウィーク

    gōrudenwēku

    Golden Week

    大型連休

    ōgatarenkyū

    (Traditional name for) Golden Week

         

    昭和の日

    shōwa no hi)

    Showa Day

    憲法記念日

    kenpō kinenbi

    Constitution Day

    みどりの日

    midori no hi

    Greenery Day

    子供の日

    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).

    Carp Streamers

    鯉のぼり (koi no bori) are the huge carp streamers hung in celebration of Children's Day. They symbolize courage because of their ability to swim up the waterfall. Moreover, these carp-shaped windsocks also vary in colors.

    Japanese Seasonal Sweets

    During this time, there are two 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. And the other one is called ちまき (chimaki), which is a Japanese dumpling wrapped in a leaf (either bamboo, banana, or reed) and steamed. However, these sweets are mostly enjoyed during Children's Day to celebrate a child's growth and happiness.

    Greeting Someone on Golden Week

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

    良いゴールデンウェークをお過ごし下さい
    yoi gōrudenwēku wo osugoshi kudasai
    Have a great Golden Week!

    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.

    japan crowd during golden week

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

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

    Final thoughts

    Golden Week may be one of the busiest times in Japan, but its stress-inducing nature caused by crowded places and what seems like a never-ending rush hour in train stations can easily be turned into one of the best experiences in Japan. With that said, the choice is yours to plan ahead or see where the crowd takes you (if you can move away). Hopefully, you won’t come back as stressed as you were before the week-long holiday.

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