Tokyo Q&A: What is Golden Week?

Here are the four spring holidays that make up Japan’s longest vacation

By Kasey Furutani

Golden Week is a big deal in Japan. Started in 1948, Golden Week is one of the longest holiday seasons in the country. During this time, the perfect spring weather usually calls for travel and outdoor fun.

Spelled in katakana, the script used for English loan words, the name 'Golden Week' was coined in 1951 after the phrase ‘golden time’, which was widely used by the Japanese radio industry to refer to primetime listening hours. With so many holidays clustered together in Golden Week, a larger-than-usual number of people tuned in to the radio, attended movie theatres and spent money on leisure activities.

Starting at the end of April and finishing in the first week of May, Golden Week consists of four national holidays which sometimes line up with the weekend when luck is on our side. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 coronavirus, Golden Week travel plans have been squashed – the state of emergency is expected to finish on May 6, the end of the holiday stretch.

This is no coincidence, though: Golden Week is usually the busiest travel season, with many city dwellers travelling internationally and domestic tourists returning home on packed bullet trains and buses. This year, however, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is discouraging travel over Golden Week, even within the city, to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government even dubbed this year's Golden Week as 'Stay-at-Home-Week'.

So, for the safety of everyone, we’ll have to celebrate our hard-earned vacation days indoors – good thing there’s plenty to do at home

Here are the four holidays that make up Golden Week. 

Imperial Palace
Photo: Imperial Household Agency of Japan

Showa Day (Showa no Hi)

April 29 2020

Emperor Showa was Japan’s longest-reigning emperor from 1926-1989. He is memorialised on Showa Day, his birthday and the first of the Golden Week holidays. 

National Diet
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Constitution Day (Kenpo Kinenbi)

May 3 2020

Constitution Day is a holiday in honour of the 1947 Constitution of Japan, the new fundamental law for post-World War II Japan. The day is used to remember Japan’s history and to learn more about the government. On this day, the National Diet is normally open for tours, but the state of emergency means tours have been suspended. Since May 3 is a Sunday this year, the public holiday for Constitution Day will fall on May 6.

Cherry blossoms, sakura, Shinjuku Gyoen
Photo: Lim Chee Wah

Greenery Day (Midori no Hi)

May 4 2020

A day to celebrate the outdoors, Greenery Day was originally established for Emperor Showa’s love of nature. Normally the day is synonymous with free entry to many parks and gardens, including Shinjuku Gyoen, Rikugien Garden and Ueno Zoo. Unfortunately, this year establishments will remain closed due to Japan’s state of emergency. 

Golden Week in Tokyo | Time Out Tokyo

Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi)

May 5 2020

A day of celebration for the young ‘uns, Children’s Day is celebrated with koinobori (flying carp kites) that are displayed in parks, public spaces and Tokyo landmarks such as Tokyo Tower (pictured). The day also coincides with Boy’s Festival (Tango no Sekku), when families wish for a prosperous future for their sons. Girls are not forgotten; Girl’s Day (Hinamatsuri) is celebrated on March 3, when families celebrate their young daughters and display traditional Hina dolls that represent the Imperial Family. 

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