What is Golden Week?
Golden Week (Japanese: Ogata Renkyu and Ogon Shukan) is a period of several public holidays clumped together in a short time period during late April and Early May. It is a popular time for many Japanese to take time to travel, and even entire factories or office buildings will shut down for an extended amount of time, similar to European offices during the month of August, to give their employees time off.
After the reconstruction efforts of World War II, Japan passed many new laws including the Holiday Act in 1948 which saw many public holidays bunched together in a short window of time. The term “Golden Week” came into popular use at the beginning of 1950’s when an executive from a film company noticed the large spike in ticket sales during the period, leading him to coin the term in reference to “Golden Time” which was the period of the highest radio listenership in Japan.
April 29 – Showa Day, Birthday of Emperor Hirohito
Emperor Hirohito was born on this day in 1901 and the date has been a fixed holiday since 1948 when the original Holiday Act was passed. After Emperor Hirohito’s death in 1989, the holiday continued under the name ‘Greenery Day’ until 2007 when the name of the day was applied to May 4. It is still recognized today as the beginning of Golden Week under ‘Showa Day’, referring to the era of time under which he reigned.
May 3 – Constitution Day
Celebrates the passing of Japan’s new Constitution after World War II.
May 4 – Greenery Day
The Holiday Act stated that any day that fell in between two holidays would also become a holiday itself. For example, until May 4th was officially named Greenery Day in 2007, the public holiday on May 4th had no name but was recognized as a day of rest for the nation. It has come to be known as a day for the appreciation of nature and is meant to inspire environmental stewardship.
May 5 – Children’s Day
This holiday was translated to the Gregorian calendar when Japan switched to its use in 1873 from the traditional lunar based calendar. It was normally celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th moon, but is now placed on the fifth day of the fifth month. Originally celebrated for just boys, the holiday Act declared the day a celebration for all children. It is traditional for parents with children to fly flags in the form of a carp (a type of fish) so that it appears that they are swimming in the wind. In the past, the day was important for the future health and success of the male children in the family.
Golden Week is a time of relaxation, and for many, a chance to get away from the cities and escape to the Japanese countryside for a few days during the beautiful springtime. Others will fly off to popular foreign tourist destinations including Hawaii, West Coast USA, Guam, and Korea.