Golden Week is a group of public holidays that fall at the end of April to early May annually. During an average Golden Week (GW) 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. Many municipal facilities waive their entrance fee on Children’s day or another day during Golden Week.
Golden Week 2021 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 Thursday April 29th 2021
- Constitution Day on Monday May 3rd
- Greenery Day on Tuesday May 4th
- Children’s Day on Wednesday May 5th
Golden week during a pandemic
Last year Golden Week was unlike any other we’ve ever experienced. The whole country was under a State of Emergency for the whole period of Golden Week. Almost all municipal indoor facilities were closed, such as libraries, museums and community centers. Even privately owned facilities and attractions were closed. This year there isn’t that level of closures except in four prefectures currently under a State of Emergency. They are Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.
Meanwhile, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Aichi prefectures are areas with a stricter anti-coronavirus measure directives without actually being in State of Emergency. It is not pushed at all, but even people in prefectures without either a stay home or be alert directive are not really supposed to travel between prefectures. But travelling within your own prefecture is fine. And apart from the four prefectures under a State of Emergency, almost all leisure facilities are open. Restaurants and bars are open although most are operating under curtailed hours. There are even events on in some locations. However, many of the locations that – before the pandemic – offered free entry one day during GW are not doing that this year. Also, several places, even places like zoos, now require that you book in advance.
Its not quite the Golden Week we all know and love, but for many of us it is a much freer Golden Week than in 2020. In 2020 all events were cancelled. All municipal museums were closed. The majority of tourist attractions also closed. You couldn’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 were off limits during the 2020 Golden Week period (Source: Kyodo News).
In 2020 we couldn’t even go flower viewing because many of the flower fields were closed off. Furthermore, several places mowed or cut their flowers to deter people visiting. In 2021, most of the flower places are open outside of the four prefectures under a State of Emergency. Moreover, there are even places with flower events on. Even for those on a quasi-lockdown you can admire flowers in your neighborhood. But for those of us lucky enough to be in a prefecture with limited to no restrictions there are lots of options for flower viewing.
In the kanto plain the Baby Blue Eyes of Hitachi Seaside park are (just about) still in bloom. The wisteria of Ashikaga are also open to the public. You can find large and small flower displays all over Japan. Flowers that bloom during GW include azalea, nemophila, tulips, peonies, lupine and wisteria. However, please note that many flowers were much earlier to bloom this year and thus are finishing up earlier than normal. Likewise, some flowers that normally bloom after GW have started to bloom already. Such as Butterfly flowers, poppies (excluding Icelandic poppies which always bloom in April) and even roses. In Saitama Prefecture, the California poppies are already in bloom in Konosu – the largest poppy field in Japan. And this year they have Baby Blue Eyes in bloom during Golden Week.
An alternative GW 2021 in Japan
So for those on a quasi-lock down 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:
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.
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.
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!
Have / live with / work with kids? Here’s a bunch of free resources for children’s day:
Order a take out or delivery from your favorite restaurant
During the State of Emergency in 2020 thousands of restaurants nationwide started offering take out. Some of them even started delivering. Thankfully those services have stuck around even after state of emergencies were cancelled.
Free online performances
There are several events and performances being shown online during Golden Week and generally during this pandemic period.
Even when the State of Emergency was nationwide in 2020 and places like Disneyland and Universal Studios were closed, many campsites stayed open. This year, even more open throughout the country. You can find lots of camping options for the Kanto plain on this blog!
What are you planning to do this Golden Week? Do you know of any other cool options we could add to this list?