What is Golden Week and why does it matter?
Golden Week is big business. A cluster of holidays that results in an extended break for most of Japan, it is also a time when huge swaths of the population embark on domestic and international vacations. But this year, due to COVID-19, Golden Week is going to be different.
Although it looks likely to be extended for another month or so, Japan’s current state of emergency is due to end on May 6, the day after Children’s Day — the last in a run of national holidays that make Golden Week such a formidable force.
The government’s advice this year is to hunker down instead of heading out during Golden Week. In Tokyo, at least, it is being promoted as “Sutei Homu Shukan” — “Stay Home Week.”
The message is clear: Do not travel. For those in Japan heeding this advice, this lack of holiday time for family and friends will surely be felt. But what makes Golden Week so important anyway?
Golden Week is the term for the week that encompasses four of Japan’s 15 national holidays. It begins with Showa Day, then continues with Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Children’s Day. These holidays celebrate former Emperor Hirohito’s birthday (April 29), his love of plants (May 4) and the induction of the Japanese Constitution (May 3, 1947). Children’s Day (May 5), however, is far more ancient.
Also known as Tango no Sekku, Children’s Day (which is alternatively called Boy’s Day) has been a fixture since at least the Nara Period (710-94). It is most recognisably celebrated by hanging out windsock-esque koinobori (carp streamers) — based on a Chinese legend that if a carp is strong enough to swim up raging rapids, it can become a dragon (if you know your Pokemon, this may ring a bell). More info