Golden Week is one of the biggest events in Japan’s annual calendar and consists of a week-long celebration of four national holidays that reflect upon Japanese history. During this traditional festival week, many Japanese people take to the road and gather together to celebrate with their families.
If you plan to visit Japan during Golden Week there are a few things to consider:
- Many businesses are closed, including Japanese restaurants and shops, so if you do wish to dine whilst celebrating, be prepared for lots of people and possibly a few queues!
- Since people like to travel during this week, roads, train stations and airports are often very busy so expect some delays too.
Although many people will be travelling in, out and around Japan during Golden Week, everyone generally has a great time and gets involved with festivities and events which are set up all over Japan, despite the ensuing crowds.
The National Days Celebrated During Golden Week
29th April – Emperor Showa Birthday
The purpose of this holiday is to remember Japan’s volatile past during Emperor Showa’s 63-year reign and the hardships Japan faced during this time. Emperor Showa died in 1989, and so rather than using this day to honour the Emperor, many people choose to reflect on the history of Japan. Up until 2006, Greenery Day (which is now celebrated on the 4th of May) was celebrated on this day. Many people still commemorate its eco-friendly history and mark the occasion by planting trees or partaking in other nature-inspired events that are set up during the day.
3rd May – Constitution Memorial Day
As you may have already guessed, this day celebrates the constitution of Japan in 1947. Since then, the Japanese use this day to reflect upon democracy and the promulgation of the post-war constitution.
4th May – Greenery Day
After 2006, Greenery Day was moved to the 4th of May and is dedicated to the environment and natural preservation of Japan. During this holiday, Japan becomes more in tune with nature and thanks mother earth for the blessings she has bestowed upon their country, from the lush rice fields to the beautiful cherry blossom. Some people say that the day also indirectly acknowledges Emperor Akihito as he was a huge lover of plants. Formerly a nameless holiday, it became a national holiday due to a law in Japan that states that a single day that exists between two national holidays also has to become a national holiday too (we like their thinking)!
5th May – Children’s Day
Arguably one of the biggest festivals celebrated during Golden Week in Japan is Children’s Day, which is celebrated on the 5th of May. Primarily, the day celebrates the birth of children, their individual personalities and general happiness. Before 1948, the day was recognised as boys’ day and families prayed for their son’s health and happiness, commemorating the day with gifts such as samurai dolls to symbolise strength, power and success for their future.
However, after this date, the government created one national holiday to celebrate both sexes. A symbol that is often associated with this day is the carp. If you were to visit Japan during the festivities, you would notice many carp-shaped flags flying proudly on this day. The carp is rich in symbolism for the Japanese and originates from an old Chinese legend stating that when a carp swims upstream, eventually it will transform into a dragon. This journey represents the journey children take into adulthood and the hopeful transformation into successful and strong “dragons”. The carp flags which flutter in the wind during this day symbolise the swimming motion referred to in the legend.
A huge part of Japanese culture is the exchange of gifts and many people give and receive gifts during Golden Week, particularly on Children’s Day. Gifts for children are a great way to celebrate the national holiday in Japan, or right here in the UK. You could acknowledge the history of the day and choose from a selection of Boys Kokeshi Dolls for your son or treat your daughter to an authentic Girls Kimono to help them celebrate the day in style. However you choose to celebrate the festivities during Golden Week, the perfect gift can provide a cherished memory for families around the world.