A combination of historic happenstance and good planning has resulted in four national holidays landing within a week of each other, between April 29 and May 5. Throw in a weekend and some company holidays, and most of Japan’s residents get a full week or ten days off — the longest holiday of the year for the majority of people, featuring more time off than even the more important New Year holiday.
Golden Week — there’s an exotic name: a week of gold. Fun fact: the name was coined by an executive of Daiei Film Company, who noticed that in this week receipts at the nation’s cinemas spiked to make it the most lucrative time of the year by a long way. Likening the phenomenon to TV’s peak viewing time, ‘golden time’ as it’s known, he dubbed this week of holidays Golden Week. The name was apt and stuck.
The holidays that comprise Golden Week are Showa Day (Showa no Hi, in memory of the last emperor), Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpo Kinenbi, in celebration of the constitution, which was, ironically, written by the American government after the second world war), Greenery Day (Midori no Hi, another memorial to the previous emperor and referencing his passion for botany), and Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi, celebrating the nation’s boisterous rug rats)
The time of year could not be better for the weather itself is golden. Spring is well advanced, the country is burgeoning green and the weather is glorious, like the best kind of British summer — warm and embracing, and without the searing heat and cloying humidity that characterises summer proper here.
At this time of year, the population, seemingly as one, heads for the airports, the ports, the railway stations, taking off for foreign climes, or staying in the country for their own Japan tours, grabbing the chance to take in the county’s natural spectacle of mountains, lakes, forests, ocean or the cultural heritage of shrines, temples, and castles, getting out for sports, or exploring the myriad of restaurants and shops.