Golden Week or Ogon Shukan in Japanese, is a collective group of four national holidays in one consecutive week. Also known as Ogata Renkyu, this holiday usually begins on April 29th and concludes around the end of the first week of May.
April 29th was chosen to be the start of this holiday week as the date was previously made a holiday to celebrate the birth of the Showa Emperor. Upon his passing in 1989, the day was renamed Greenery Day or Midori no Hi before being renamed again to Showa Day in honor of the late emperor. Greenery Day was subsequently shifted to May 4th.
Japan’s National Holiday Laws first publicized Golden Week in the summer of 1948, and the name is said to have originated from the radio term “golden time”, which stands for the time when radio audience ratings are the highest. This is not a confirmed fact, however.
Golden Week is known to be the longest holiday period for many Japanese employees, and many take their paid time off (PTO) to travel both domestically and abroad. Some companies will also completely shut down during this week to give their employees time off.
There are numerous activities to indulge in during this time, depending on what you’re in the mood for. A downside to Golden Week is that it results in many people taking their holidays at the same time, causing crowds at airports and train stations, and hotel prices to skyrocket.
To avoid the mad rush, some choose instead to stay in their hometowns, cities, and prefectures for a kind of “staycation.” Others may focus on recharging their batteries by going to their local public baths and onsens, heading off to the park with their families, indulging in a much-needed massage or spa treatment, or even just unwinding at home.
If the idea of being a coach potato doesn’t appeal to you and being constantly amongst the hustle and bustle of the city is getting too much, why not check out some nearby hiking spots? Numerous studies have shown that hiking has numerous physiological and psychological benefits – it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, staves off stress, anxiety, and depression, promotes weight loss and body strength, and provides your lungs with much-needed fresh air.
In Japan, going out into nature is called shinrin-yoku, which literally translates to “forest bathing.” It’s a beloved tradition that allows individuals to get out of the city and into nature to detox and recharge.
If you’re residing in Tokyo, there are some premium hiking spots near and even in the city, so you don’t have to travel far for your fill of green:
- There’s Sayama Hills, affectionately nicknamed, Totoro Forest after the beloved Ghibli character in Tokorozawa, Saitama, which is about an hour from central Tokyo by bus or train
- Mt. Takao is a popular hiking destination also an hour from central Tokyo
- The Institute for Nature Study is a nature reserve in the heart of Tokyo, 5 minutes from Meguro Station
While it’s more traditional for Japanese to do “winter/end of year cleaning” in preparation for New Year’s, the concept remains the same. Spring cleaning refers to the act of doing a thorough cleaning of a house or room, typically conducted in spring, hence its name. It’s a tradition common in countries with cold winters and provides an opportunity to swap out one’s winter closet for a spring and summer one. It’s also symbolic of “new beginnings” and “fresh starts.”
If you’re looking to save a bit of money during Golden Week but don’t want to spend the entire holiday vegging on the couch, then why not take the opportunity of this free time to spruce up your house? Many household cleaning products can be bought for cheap at one of Japan’s numerous 100-yen stores, and you know what they say: tidy house; tidy mind.
Japan’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions has provided the perfect opportunity for people to reconnect with friends and loved ones during this year’s Golden Week holiday. Some may opt to visit their hometowns for the holidays, while others may catch up with friends and family in a previously agreed upon destination. Whatever the plan or activity, Golden Week makes it easier to synchronize schedules and finalize any plans you may make. It can be as simple as going for a drink at the local bar or having someone over for a meal.
If spending the holidays at home is unappealing to you, but if you wish to avoid the masses that’ll no doubt flock to the airports and train stations during Golden Week, then why not consider a road trip instead?
Road trips are great if you want to stick to a schedule and plan of your own making. It also provides more opportunities to “go off the beaten path” and explore parts of Japan that are less touristy.
Some popular road trip routes in Japan include:
- the UNESCO recognized coast-to-coast route from the Shiretoko Peninsula to Hakodate in Hokkaido
- the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido route on Seto Island.
- Japan’s longest toll-free bridge, Irabu-Ohashi Bridge in Okinawa
- The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Tateyama to Kurobe Dam
Whatever you decide to do, we hope that this Golden Week is a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable one for you! Also, if you’re planning to spend this holiday time apartment hunting, Village House has an online application you can fill out at your convenience.