Golden Week in Japan / ゴールデンウィーク

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Today (Thursday, May 5th) marked the end of Japan’s official Golden Week holiday. Golden Week – ゴールデンウィーク or simply GW – is a week of public holidays which many Japanese salarymen and other workers have off. During this week, Japanese people travel en masse out of urban centers to visit family, ancestors, and theme parks. This is the longest vacation period for many Japanese employees, and any days that aren’t covered by public holidays are either taken as paid holidays or the employer simply closes the office.

Fuji Sengen Shrine

The mass exodus of Japanese tourists means that streets and trains are crowded, and prices for travel skyrocket. Car accidents increase, and traveling on trains and buses becomes very uncomfortable. As a student traveling with my Japanese and American friends, it was a very fun trip because of the crowding. Japanese people that normally don’t acknowledge other people spoke to us, mostly asking questions about our studies, and it was like a Spring Break trip in the US, but without the typical spring break crowd.

If you study abroad in Japan, or are there for Golden Week, I recommend planning a trip during GW just for the experience. My husband hates the crowds, but it’s an experience I’m glad I had. I went to Kyoto for my GW, and it was totally worth it to explore the temples and shrines in the bit of old Japan that makes the city so unique.

Kinkakuji in Kyoto

Golden Week Public Holidays

April 29 – Showa Day 昭和の日 Shouwa no Hi – A holiday honoring the Showa Emperor Hirohito (emperor 1926-1989) since 2007. The holiday is intended for the public to reflect upon the tumultuous years of Hirohito’s reign (including World War II). Previously the holiday on April 29th celebrated the Showa Emperor’s Birthday (until 1988) and Greenery Day (1989-2006).

May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day 憲法記念日 Kenpou Kinenbi – This holiday celebrates the ratification of the Japanese Constitution on May 3, 1947. It is a day for reflection on democracy and Japanese government.

May 4 – Greenery Day みどりの日 Midori no Hi – A holiday that is celebrated on May 4th since 2007 to commune with and be thankful for nature – it was previously celebrated on April 29th. This was a way to continue the observation of the Showa Emperor’s birthday without directly mentioning the name, after a tumultuous war period, as the emperor had been fond of plants. Greenery Day was moved to May 4th when Showa Day was instated to observe the Show Emperor’s birthday, and replaced the generic Citizen’s Holiday (1985-2006)

May 5 – Children’s Day こどもの日 Kodomo no Hi – A holiday that celebrates the strength and vitality of children, and was previously Boy’s Day or 端午の節句 Tango no Sekku.

What kind of long public holidays are there in your country? What is your favorite holiday destination? Let me know in the comments!

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