In a country blessed with a healthy number of public holidays, the most notable run of holidays is the country’s renowned Golden Week. This string of public holidays at the end of March and beginning of April results in most of the country taking off for over a week.
The Golden Week is a period when four national holidays fall within the space of seven days. The days which are holidays each year depending on how the holidays fall in combination with the two weekends either side of Golden Week.
The week gets its name from broadcasting jargon, a “golden time,” which is the equivalent of primetime.
It has become a very popular and busy holiday season in Japan. Many companies shut down during this period, and the Japanese take the time to travel and relax.
Since this period is usually blessed with good weather and moderate temperature, many large festivals take place all around the nation, helping to make Golden Week to be an extremely popular time for travel and sightseeing.
April 29th: Showa Day
Golden Week always begins with Showa Day which honours the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, the reigning Emperor before, during, and after World War II (from 1926 – 1989).
The official purpose of the holiday is to reflect on Japan’s Showa period when the nation recovered after the turbulent times and to think about the country’s future.
May 3rd: Constitutional Memorial Day
The Constitution of Japan came into force on May 3rd 1947. To commemorate this event, the date is celebrated as a national holiday.
On this day, many newspapers and magazines publish articles about the Japanese government. The National Diet Building in Tokyo, where the constitution was created, is also open to the public on this day only.
May 4th: Greenery Day
Also known as Arbor Day or ‘Midori no Hi’, this national holiday in Japan began life as a non-holiday. The Japanese holiday law states that a day that falls between two holidays will also be a holiday, and since this day falls between Constitution Memorial Day and Children’s Day, it too is a holiday.
Until 2007, this date was known as ‘In between day’ and completed Golden Week. Greenery day was celebrated on April 29th, but that has changed to Showa Day. Before 1989, April 29th had been a holiday to mark the birthday of Emperor Hirohito. After his death in 1989, Greenery Day was established to honour his love for plants and nature.
May 5th: Children’s Day
Golden week comes to a close with Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi) which is traditionally celebrated on May 5th, the fifth of the fifth. ‘Kodomo’ means child, ‘no’ means for, and ‘hi’ means day.
It is a day set aside to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness.
It was designated a National holiday by the Japanese government in 1948, but it has been a day of celebration in Japan since ancient times. Tango no Sekku was historically set as a festival for boys on the 5th day of the 5th month. Indeed, it was once as Boys’ Day while Girls’ Day (Hinamatsuri) was celebrated on March 3rd.
In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers.
There is a second holiday period in Japan, but it’s not as straightforward as Golden Week, since it does not happen every year. Japan has two holidays in September: Respect for the Aged Day (held on the third Monday of September) and Autumnal Equinox Day (around September 23rd). In certain years, these dates can align and create a 5-day long holiday stretch. When these occur, the phenomenon has been dubbed “Silver Week” and due to the extended break, it becomes a popular time for Japanese to take off and travel.
The next Silver Weeks will occur in 2026, 2032, 2037 and 2043. So if you’re planning well ahead, keep this in mind!