Should you avoid GW in Japan?
By any chance, is your next holiday destination, Japan? It is so easy to find information of places to go by internet. BUT how about WHEN TO AVOID?? When I plan trip to abroad, what I have hard time finding the most is this. You can check national holidays but it doesn’t tell you how crazy the transportation or road gets and what type of shops are closed. “GW” short for “Golden Week” is one of major national holiday seasons that some of you want to avoid. At the same time, it is the best season for some of you to visit Japan. I will give you some facts of Golden Week and what type of travelers should avoid or should not avoid.
- What and when is GW.
- What happens during GW.
- What type of travelers suit to visit Japan during GW, who should not.
- Japanese working custom : holiday
Golden Week : Late April to Early May, every year.
Golden Week is combination of 4 national holidays and weekend. So the length changes every year depending on when the weekend will be. The Golden Week began April 29th (昭和の日/The day of Showa), and it ends with May 5th (こどもの日/The day of children).
The list of national holidays in Golden Week.
- April 29th 昭和の日 (/shou-wa-no-hi/ The day of Showa)
- May 3rd 憲法記念日(/kempou-kinenbi/ The Constitution Memorial Day)
- May 4th みどりの日（/midori-no-hi/ The day of green )
- May 5th こどもの日（/kodomo-no-hi/ The day of children)
Some consider April 29th as a part of Golden Week and some don’t. When Saturday and Sunday comes before May 3rd or after May 5th, Golden Week gets longer.
What happens if National Holidays were on Sunday?
For example, April 29th were on Sunday, its next day (Monday) becomes holiday. The combination of this rule, the length of Golden Week changes every year.
In 2021, for the people who can take paid holiday on April 30th, they will have 7days off.
DAY1: April 29th THU | National Holiday (off by calendar)
DAY2: April 30th FRI | (paid holiday for one day)
DAY3: May 1st SAT | (off by calendar )
DAY4: May 2nd SUN | (off by calendar )
DAY5: May 3rd MON | National Holiday (off by calendar )
DAY6: May 4th TUE | National Holiday (off by calendar )
DAY7: May 5th WED | National Holiday (off by calendar )
*Schools are usually off accordingly to the calendar.
Public transportations get crazy
During this time, a lot of people all over Japan plan to go on trip. Some people go aboard, some travel in Japan. Before Golden week starts, you will see the news about how much public transportations are booked and when highways are expected heavy traffic-jam.
This is the season, trains, airplanes are hard to book on the day. Even the carriage you don’t need to reserve the sheets get over 100% capacity. Usually the beginning and the end is the heaviest.
Things are hard to book or waiting gets way longer
Not only the transportation, restaurants, accommodation become hard to book at the last minuets. The ques to getting in somewhere like museums, theme parks gets very long.
Why does it get so crazy during GW?
This is just my personal observation. Golden Week is in the best season to travel and outdoor activities. It is in the end of Spring and beginning of Summer. Usually weather is nice, not too cold, not too hot. After the Golden Week before the Summer, Japan will have raining season. So it is the best timing to HAVE FUN!!!
Also, generally speaking, Japanese workers cannot have long paid holiday like weeks. Employees of paid holidays are ensured by the law. But the minimum is “10 days per a year”!! If you are working longer years, it could get longer. But if you have children, 10 days per a year varnish within family matters. SO! for the Japanese people who are working accordingly to the calendar, Golden Week is the huge opportunity to go somewhere we cannot go on weekends.
Does GW only have down sides for foreign tourists?
It really depends on how you travel and the theme of your trip in Japan. But I see some fun good sides of traveling Japan during GW.
- There are a lot of local events take place all over Japan :
These events differ from traditional festivals (祭 matsuri), these take place for local people and visitors to simply enjoy. The events like farmers’ markets, performing arts, and so on. Even in the must visit tourist spots might be doing spot events for Golden Week. These events might not have information in English but it is rather easy to spot when you are near by. You will notice by flags of the events or a lots of people going to the same directions.
- Tourist to Tourist bond with Japanese people:
You will see lots of Japanese tourists at where you are. It means they are also in unfamiliar place like you are. If you are lucky, you might end up with new Japanese friends you met at where you visited.
- You might come across with people who speak English:
Even though the area is tourist spot, if it were in small town, you might notice it is hard to find someone who speak foreign language. But during Golden Week, there are a lot of people from all over Japan could be also visiting there. The possibility of finding language help could get higher.
- Less likely facilities are closed:
Have you ever experienced that you finally reached to a shop or other facilities of your dream but it was closed irregularly? The risk of this unfortunate incident will be lower during this time of the year.
The styles of trip suite for visiting during Golden Week
You have many days in Japan.
If you are planning to stay in Japan longer days, you can have more time to spare on your schedule. You could avoid the peak time of transportation or places you are going.
You are staying in one area.
If you are staying in one area, it is less hassle compare to moving long distance day after day, visiting a lot of places in one day. Because you are staying in one area, by third day, you will have much better idea of the area and how to get around. This plan also gives you the higher chance to come across with local events.
You want to meet up with Japanese friends who work accordingly to the calendar.
As I explained for Japanese people work accordingly to the calendar, Golden Week is one of best opportunities to catching up and spend more time with you. We have other 2 longish holidays but many people have engagement with their family, traditionary.
BUT if your friends are in hospitality industry or tourism, this is the worst timing to visit.
You are events lover or not bothered by the crowd.
If you are type of person who doesn’t mind waiting long time or crowded area, Golden Week will not be matter of your concern. Also if you love jumping in events and experience what locals enjoy, Golden Week could be the best opportunity.
The styles of trip DO NOT suite for visiting during Golden Week.
You are a spot accommodation picker.
If your travel style is to find accommodation after you arrive the destination of the day, Golden Week could be hard to find a room. I am sure somewhere will have a room or two if the price is not the matter for you. If you want to secure accommodation of your preferences, I strongly recommend to book rooms beforehand.
You want to see things properly or take the perfect photograph.
You might think all Japanese people must have seen famous temples or tourist spots in Japan by now. But it is not the case. These world famous places get crowded by not only foreigners but also Japanese. So if you would like to get quiet less crowded environment to admire the beauty of wherever you are visiting thoroughly, or if you would like to take photographs from the best angle without strangers get in your photos, Golden Week is the time to avoid.
Visiting Mountains or remote area to enjoy nature by car, taxi, bus or ferry is on your plan.
This often happens in Shikoku, the island where we are, during holiday seasons. You might think if you spend in nature for busy season could avoid crowd like in town. The way of thinking is not wrong. But ON THE WAY TO THERE will have heavy traffic. Because usually to get to the mountains, river sides or small islands (which something you can experience in Kagawa prefecture, where we are), the road to it is narrow and limited or the sheets of ferries and boats to the islands are limited. As you can easily imagine that a lot of Japanese nature lovers visit these places. You will be spending longer time gazing the tail lumps of the car in front of you and the cars on the road hardly moves.
There are 2 to 3 other holiday season in Japan
This time, I picked to introduce what to expect during Golden Week. But there are 2 to 3 major holiday seasons in Japan. “OBON”, “Silver Week” and “New Year Holiday”. I hope I will have chance to write about that around that time. But for who cannot wait, here are the outlines.
- OBON : it is not shown on the calendar as red numbers. It depends on the regions and slightly changes every year, but it is a few days in August between 10th to 15th. OBON is the time to remembering our passed family members and ancestors. So, a lot of people visit and spend time with family.
- Silver Week: it is the short version of Golden Week in September. The deal is pretty much similar to GW.
- New Year Holiday: It is depending on the company you work but usually, it is from December 29th to January 3rd. For Japanese people cerebrating New Year is family event. So, the deal is similar to OBON.
What is your style of traveling abroad? What kind of information you find hard to get on internet?
Again, if Golden Week is the time for you to visit or not really depends on what you want on your trip and how you want to plan it. I am not fond of crowed busy places, so I usually stay at home or work during Golden Week and take day offs during quiet times. If I go abroad, I prefer staying one region. I have tendency to book and plan everything I can beforehand except restaurants. The reason I don’t book restaurants beforehand is concierges know way better than my skill of internet searching.
We would love to write about the information you cannot get from outside of Japan, although you feel it is important for you to know before coming here. So, please do tell us if any from the contact form below.
We are located in Shikoku island which is the smallest main islands of Japan. So, if you are interested in Shikoku to visit and want to find some local information, feel free to contact us!