Tomorrow marks the end of “Golden” Week in Japan, a collection of four national holidays within seven days, although, this year, due to the unusual way in which the days fell, the holiday wasn’t so “golden.” In combination with well placed weekends, Golden Week is one of Japan's three busiest holiday seasons, besides New Year and Obon week. Golden Week consists of the combination of Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. Instead of just giving people those four holidays off, many offices end up closing for about 7-10 days, giving their employees a full week of freedom. Even if they’re not given the whole week, many employees will just take time off anyway. The holiday week starts on April 29th and goes through May 5th.
However, this year, the holidays are placed unfavorably, creating an isolated holiday during the first half and a four-day holiday period in the second half of the Golden Week. Showa no hi (the Showa Emperor’s birthday) was on a Tuesday and Constitution Day on a Saturday, so there was enough time between them for people to work, which means they didn’t get those days off. That left a short 4-day weekend to get all the things people usually do during Golden Week done — like visit their home towns — and the truncated time period meant more highway congestion in a shorter time span.
This year, the Japan Travel Bureau declared that the Golden Week holiday started on April 25 and ended May 6, despite the fact that, for the first half of that period, schools weren’t closed the whole time. JTB estimated 21.962 million domestic travellers over the holiday, which is 3.6 percent less than in 2013, when the number hit a record high. The estimate for overseas travellers based on reservations already made was 474,000, which is 11.4 percent less than last year. At Narita airport, 36,000 people were flying out of Japan on Saturday. Roads were overwhelmed, too, with traffic backed up for more than 50 km heading toward an interchange north of Tokyo on the Kanetsu Expressway running to Niigata Prefecture along the Sea of Japan coast.
Rakuten Travel looked into its own reservation trends and said that the usual destinations, Okinawa and Hokkaido, remain popular but there was a 40.5 percent spike in the number of travelers going to Tokushima Prefecture — including a 157 percent increase among travelers in their 20s — most likely due to the 1,200th anniversary of the Ohenro Pilgrimage, which is interesting since the pilgrimage in the past was only popular among older people. Shimane Prefecture also saw a steep increase in visitors for a similar reason: people visiting iconic Izumo Shrine.