Tomorrow starts the Golden Week holidays here in Japan. Golden Week is the name that has been given to a group of public holidays that fall at the end of April, and into the first week of May. There are 16 national holidays in Japan this year, and 4 of them fall within this next week.
Tomorrow, April 29th, is Shōwa Day, and is observed to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Hirohito (Emperor Shōwa) who died in 1989. Then, May 3rd is Constitution Day, May 4th is Greenery Day, and May 5th is Children’s Day. But since Shōwa Day falls on a weekend, many companies give a work holiday on the following Monday (May 1st, this year.) Not all companies do this — it is not mandatory — but many do.
This year that leaves only Tuesday, May 2nd, as the only actual “work day” next week, and many people just decide to take that day as a vacation day so that they can have the whole week off.
A lot of people choose to travel during Golden Week, and plans have to be made months in advance for these trips. Flights, trains, and hotels in desired vacation areas tend to book full during Golden Week, even though prices are often very high. Some people also choose to travel outside of Japan to avoid the crowds in the Japanese resort areas.
My husband and I, however, didn’t think about scheduling any Golden Week travel until it was too late! No hotels… no flights… no trains. Looks like we will be spending our Golden Week here in Tokyo. But no matter… we still have plenty to explore here. And, maybe we will take a few short trips to the outskirts of the city:
- Kamakura — to see the shrines and temples, and see the giant Buddha (Daibutsu) statue at Kōtoku-in. Kamakura is about an hour train ride south from Tokyo. There are several hiking trails in the mountains around the north side of the city, and a beach on the south side. Kamakura is “Old Japan”, and is referred to by many as “Little Kyoto.”
- Enoshima is a small mountainous island off the coast — connected to the mainland by a bridge. It is a short train ride farther down the coast from Kamakura. There are many attractions on the island and in the surrounding area, including more shrines, an aquarium, caves, gardens, and the Sea Candle lighthouse.
- Mt. Takao — on the western edge of Tokyo — is a popular hiking area, and is easily accessible by train. We have been there several times. There are 5 trails up to the top of the mountain. An inclined railway, and a cable car can take you halfway up the mountain, where you can also see more shrines as you walk the rest of the way up the mountain. There is also a wild monkey park along this trail. Once at the top, there are restaurants, beer gardens, and snack and souvenir shops. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji from the top of Mt. Takao. And if hiking up to the top is not enough, there are miles of more secluded trails to explore down the other side.
Some people have told us that it is actually nice to stay in Tokyo during Golden Week. Because so many people leave the city to travel elsewhere for the holidays, Tokyo attractions are less crowded than usual. We will see about that…
Spring is here. The sun is shining, and the weather is warm. Happy Golden Week!