Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Golden Week

It is that time of the year in Japan, when almost everyone you know asks you "Where are you going for Golden Week?". Everyone is just getting in the mood for Golden Week, one of the three big holiday periods in Japan, the other two being Obon and O-shogatsu

So, what is Golden Week ? It is just an extended holiday period which in certain years, like 2013, could extend upto 10 days. The holiday period begins in the end of April, usually April 29th and ends around 5th or 6th of May. Not all days in this period are holidays in the real sense; they end up being holidays owing to the following Japanese provisions of law:
1. When a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the next working day becomes the public holiday, referred to as "Furikae kyujitsu", which means "Transfer holiday". 
2. Any day that falls between two other national holidays shall become a holiday, referred to as "Kokumin no Kyujitsu" which means "Citizens' Holiday". 

The first national holiday during the Golden Week is April 29th- "Showa Day". It was the birthday of the Emperor Showa. During his rule, this day was celebrated as "Ten-no-Tanjoubi", meaning "Emperor's Birthday". After his death, the day was designated Showa no Hi in his remembrance. (The current Emperor Akihito's birthday falls on December 23rd and this day is currently a public holiday referred to as "Ten-no-Tanjoubi". )

The second holiday during Golden Week is May 3rd - "Kenpou Kinen Bi" which is Constitution Memorial Day. This is followed by the third holiday "Midori no Hi" meaning Greenery Day, which falls on May 4th. Golden week concludes with the last holiday "Kodomo no Hi", "Childrens' Day" which falls on May 5th. Traditionally in Japan, Boy's Festival known as "Tango no Sekku" is celebrated on May 5th. 

Interestingly, Japan does not have a public holiday on May 1st, the International Labor Day. Instead, Japan has a its "Labor Thanksgiving Day" public holiday, locally known as "Kinro Kansha no Hi" on November 23rd. 

Golden week is a period which most people in Japan look forward to. Most companies and academic institutions are closed during this period, giving people the much needed break.  Usually people prefer to travel during this period. The weather in Japan at this time of the year is pleasant and this encourages people to go on family trips. Most people take a vacation and travel around the country or abroad. A majority of people will even take this opportunity to visit their hometown and meet family. Airports, railway stations  and expressways are extremely crowded during Golden Week. Trying to secure last minute reservations is unthinkable. Most Japanese plan their Golden Week trip months in advance; popular destinations being Hawaii, Guam, Indonesia and North America. Most flights to and out of Japan are overpriced during this 10 day period. Local attractions in Japan are also crowded during this period and finding hotel accommodation at the last moment is extremely difficult. 

Foreign tourists planning to visit Japan should best avoid Golden Week to visit Japan. Apart from the holiday crowd and higher airfares etc, some tourist attractions may also be closed on certain days. 

On the contrary, people in Japan would find commuting within cities like Tokyo during this period more convenient on  public transportation.

Finally, as a friend puts it, "The best travel plan for Golden week, is not to travel." 
    In 2013, most offices are likely to be closed from Saturday April 27th, to Monday , May 6th. Peak travel days are likely to be from April 27th to 29th and May 3rd to May 6th.

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