In Japan, one of the most festive times of year is a holiday-studded stretch of the calendar known as Golden Week. The period includes four national holidays and stretches from 29 April to the early days of May. This is one of the busiest times of year for travel as millions of people make the most of the extended time off and beautiful spring weather.
|2020||29 Apr||Wed||Shōwa Day|
|3 May||Sun||Constitution Memorial Day|
|4 May||Mon||Greenery Day|
|5 May||Tue||Children's Day|
|6 May||Wed||Constitution Memorial Day Holiday|
|2021||29 Apr||Thu||Shōwa Day|
|3 May||Mon||Constitution Memorial Day|
|4 May||Tue||Greenery Day|
|5 May||Wed||Children's Day|
Emperor Showa’s Birthday on 29 April opens up the Golden Week celebrations. This holiday commemorates the institution of having an emperor, honours the current emperor, and is a focal point for celebrating Japanese history and culture in general. Emperor Showa reigned from 1926 until 1989, covering the crucial post-war recovery period. For a time, this holiday was called Greenery Day and kept on 4 May, but as association with past imperialism has waned, people are now more willing to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Showa with parades, fireworks, lighting up paper lanterns, and planting young saplings.
Next in Golden Week comes Constitution Day on 3 May, when Japan’s new constitution adopted in 1947 is commemorated. This is also a patriotic holiday that is related to and piggy-backs on Emperor Showa’s Birthday. This is the only day of the year when Japan’s National Building is open to the public.
On 4 May, there are celebrations for Greenery Day, which is now a separate holiday instead of a replacement holiday for Emperor Showa Birthday. There are many activities on Yumenoshima Island on Greenery Day. This island was originally constructed on top of a garbage dump but is now a bastion of greenery in the midst of busy Tokyo.
Finally, on 5 May comes Children’s Day, which honours all children but tends to especially focus on sons. Many people pray for the health and success of their sons. They often put samurai dolls on display as a symbol of strength and fly silken flags bearing the family crest. It is customary to consume large quantities of mochi rice cakes and other Japanese treats this time of year.
This is an incredibly busy time of year for vacation travel and it is essential to book your transport and accommodation options early to avoid being disappointed.