Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク, Gōruden Wīku, often abbreviated "GW") is - along with o-bon in August and ō-shōgatsu (the New Year festivities) - one of the ōgata renkyū (大型連休), the three long vacation periods observed in Japan. It comprises a series of public holidays (see below). Many employees take the days in between the holidays and the weekends off, while some companies close for the whole week.

Due to the usually favourable weather, it is also one of the most popular seasons for domestic and international travel. While the weather is mild and the temperatures are not that high yet, the seasonal fares for transportation and accommodation most definitely are. Most hotels and holiday resorts are booked out weeks and months in advance, on some days shinkansen run at a capacity of up to 200%. Expect hours of delay on the highways at the beginning and the end of Golden Week, as well as huge crowds and long queues at tourist attractions.

The Japanese holidays in Golden Week are:
  • April 29: since 2007 renamed Shōwa no Hi (昭和の日, "Shōwa Day"), between 1989-2007 Midori no Hi (みどりの日, "Greenery Day'), before that the birthday of Emperor Hirohito (Shōwa Tenno),
  • May 3: Kempō Kinen-bi (憲法記念日, "Constitution Memorial Day"),
  • May 4: since 2007 Midori no Hi ("Greenery Day"), formerly Kokumin no Kyūjitsu (国民の休日, "Citizens' Holiday", the official term for "public holiday"), and
  • May 5: Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日, "Children's Day").
If one of the public holidays in Golden Week falls on a Sunday, then the next regular working day (either April 30 or May 6) will be a substitute holiday: in 2018, Shōwa Day fell on a Sunday. Hence April 30 was a compensation holiday (振替休日 Furikae Kyūjitsu).

Read more on Japanese holidays.


Cover photo: Yoshihiro Ito