golden week 2020 Japan tokyo free tokyo

Golden Week 2020 Japan – This year Golden Week will be unlike any other we’ve ever experienced. With the whole country under a State of Emergency for the whole period of Golden Week what will it mean for Golden Week 2020 in Japan?

Update April 24th: Hours after this post was first published a “Stay home” campaign was announced for Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba.

Golden Week 2020 Dates

Golden Week every year is split into two. One day is at the end of April and three days together from May 3rd to 5th. If one of the days falls on a Sunday another day will be given off in lieu.

  • Showa No Hi on Wednesday April 29th 2020
  • Constitution Day on Sunday May 3rd, as it falls on a Sunday the holiday will be on Wednesday 6th of May
  • Greenery Day on Monday May 4th
  • Children’s Day on Tuesday May 5th
golden week 2020 Japan tokyo free tokyo under a state of emergency
Flying carp and balloons for Children’s Day during Golden Week Japan

Golden Week under a State of Emergency

During an average Golden Week the entire population of Japan gets out and about at some point during Golden Week. Many people travel from cities where they work to their rural home towns. Even more go sightseeing and / or take a trip. Normally traffic is bad and queues are inevitable, there is so much to make an outing worthwhile during this celebratory period.

However, in 2020, it will be a very different story to normal. All events are cancelled. All municipal museums are closed. The majority of tourist attractions are also closed. You can’t access the larger flower displays. They’ve even cut the heads of the tulips in Sakura City to deter people coming to visit (Source: SoraNews24). Even mountains are off limits during the 2020 Golden Week period (Source: Kyodo News).

State of Emergency

The State of Emergency in Japan is similar to a very loose “lock down”. Its Japan’s equivalent of “Stay at home” #Stayhome. It started on Wednesday April 8th in seven prefectures and was extended to the whole of Japan on April 16th (Source: Asahi Shinbun). The Japanese state of emergency is currently in effect until Wednesday May 6th.

Despite that only 18% of people polled had stopped going to work due to COVID-19 (Source: Kyodo News). Even if people can’t travel and / or enjoy leisurely activities and tourist attractions this Golden week period, they will welcome the break from work. For many it will be a welcome hiatus from the daily worry of having to commute to work during a pandemic.

We are currently in “phase 1” of the State of Emergency and “phase 2” will start on the first day of Golden Week – April 29th 2020. The final phase “3” is the end of Golden Week. The Government will be looking at the progress of the outbreak to decide what comes next (Source: Asian Nikkei). Japan has not yet had a widespread community outbreak, but the rising number of cases is a concern.

The Government plan to make a decision during Golden Week on whether or not to extend the current state of emergency (Source: Japan Times), with the announcement on their decision expected toward the end of Golden Week.

What does a State of Emergency mean for Golden Week 2020?

The main effects for Golden Week 2020 in Japan is that people are being asked to stay home. Public facilities and the vast majority of attractions are closed. There are no Golden Week events on.

Update on April 24th: Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures are pushing a “Stay home, save lives” directive to start from April 25th until May 6th.

Stay home Saitama Chiba tokyo Kanagawa Golden Week 2020 Japan

Golden Week 2020 Closed Locations

The biggest difference this year is that thousands of tourist locations and attractions around Japan have closed. It remains to be seen if they will follow the recommendations. But they are all supposed to stay closed until May 6th. Normally during Golden Week several attractions have a free in day. Not only are these attractions not having a free in day, they are not open during Golden Week 2020!

Everything else is a case by case scenario. Most malls are closed. In my area they are all closed, but I have seen people post on social media that there local malls are open. Some parks are closed, some are open. Same with restaurants and cafes. Temples and shrines for the most part are open.

An alternative Golden Week 2020 in Japan

So what can you do for Golden Week this year? Binge watch TV, read a book….write a book? Craft with the kids, play board games, hone your poker face? Here’s a few other ideas for Golden Week under a quasi lock down:

Virtual Tours

Using online resources for virtual experiences and trips is one way you can spend some of your time this Golden week in Japan. It will also give you some ideas for future plans in / to Japan when we are in a better position to live with novel Coronavirus.

On this blog you can take a virtual tour of the famous nemophilia in the Kanto Plain or the Museum of Modern Art Saitama.

City-cost have information for the VR visitor experiences of one of Japan’s oldest museums.

Asobuild are really getting behind the stay home drive with several events and even activity ideas (by licensed childcare educators) available on their website. (Source: PR Times, Japanese language only).

More than a dozen amusement parks are participating in an “Amusement Park at home” program. Virtually ride some of the Kanto area’s famous rides from the comfort of your own home. They also share some crafts you can try at home. Saitama’s Seibuen and Musashi no Mura are participating in the incentive.

On Nomi

Brush up on your Japanese skills and maybe even make some new friends by trying the latest craze in Japan “on-nomi” オン飲み – drinking online with strangers! (Source: Timeout magazine).

Take on a project

This year Golden Week will be an opportunity to get some things done around the house or garden (veranda!). You could also put the time to use to make some much needed masks for yourself or better still to donate to those that need them. Even if you can’t sew there are several websites that have instructions on how to make masks that don’t require a needle and thread. You can even find instructions (or click here) on how to make origami masks!

Order a take out or delivery from your favorite restaurant

You might find that your local favorite restaurant is now doing not only take-out, but delivery too. There are more than 50 restaurants and eateries in my neighboring city of Kawagoe that are offering take-out and delivery during the period of the State of the Emergency only.

Free online performances

Here’s your chance to see five hours of Kabuki theater for free! It will be available on Showa No Hi, Wednesday April 29th 2020 and everyday until April 30th 2020. Yoshitsune Senbonzakura (click for video on Youtube) from the National Theatre Tokyo.

Camping

If you really and truly need to get away, you can find several campsites that are actually still open during the Covid-19 State of Emergency. (I am not condoning this, just sharing information). In my own area Opark Ogose have remained open and have several accommodation options for Golden Week 2020. Even better still – pitch a tent in your own back garden and do your bit to flatten the curve!

What are you planning to do this Golden Week? Do you know of any other cool options we could add to this list?

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