Have you heard of Japan’s Golden Week? The first time I heard it some 30 years ago, the term conjured up images of a Buddhist celebration involving golden statues, the sun and enlightenment but as I would soon discover the national holiday period has nothing to do with religion.

Golden Week or GW is essentially a collection of 4 public holidays that span 7 days beginning on April 29 and ending on May 5, however, there is a lot more to GW than a week-long holiday.

The first public holiday of GW is Showa no Hi  Showa Day on April 29, which celebrates the birthday of the Showa Emperor (1926-1989). This is followed by Kenpo Kinenbi  Constitution Memorial Day on May 3, Midori no Hi  Greenery Day on May 4  and finally Kodomo no Hi  Children’s Day on May 5. You can read more about each of these days from the above links.

The first GW was held in 1948 when Japan’s constitution created the National Holidays Act, declaring that national holidays are days that all citizens should celebrate and give thanks for the development of a better society and a richer life.

Although GW is technically only 7 days and only 4 of these days are public holidays, depending on where you work it’s sometimes possible to stretch GW out to 9 days or more using the weekends and taking one or two extra weekdays off work. For example, GW 2021 starts on a Thursday, so if you took April 30, plus May 6 and 7 off, you could create a lovely long 11 day vacation!!

For the average Aussie, an eleven-day holiday probably sounds a bit stingy, but for most Japanese who on average only take 10 days of paid leave per year (usually non consecutive), GW is a wonderful long guilt-free holiday period that everyone looks forward to.

The name Golden Week is said to have been created by the broadcasting industry who referred to the long holiday period as “golden time.” Then the movie industry is said to have coined the term “Golden Week” because of the increase in cinema ticket sales during the long holiday, so in a sense the idea of Golden Week was perhaps inspired by the golden age of Hollywood.

In pre-COVID times when holiday plans were only hindered by the number of vacation days and budget, more than 24 million Japanese would travel during GW.  The majority of Japanese travel domestically during GW but according to 2019 data, more than 585,000 Japanese travelled overseas during GW in 2018 and while the most popular destinations were: Korea, China, Taiwan and Hawaii some ventured as far as Australia, USA, Canada and Europe.

So, next time you’re planning a trip to Japan, talk to our expert consultants who can advise you where to enjoy Japan even during the busy Golden Week holiday period!