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Holidays in Japan – How to Spend Smartly|日本の休日-賢い過ごし方

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Hakone, a popular tourist destination|人気の観光地箱根

Japan has four major holiday seasons.


  1. Golden Week (Late April to Early May)|ゴールデンウイーク

  2. Obon Season (August)|お盆

  3. Silver Week (Late September)シルバーウイーク

  4. New Year's Season年末年始

Since many people take their holidays all at once, they often get stuck in heavy traffic jams, At many destinations, there are long lines everywhere and it is a headache wherever you stop.


If you want to enjoy your holidays in comfort, without getting caught in traffic or standing in a long queue, you need to know the characteristics of each holiday period and try to avoid getting stuck in the crowd.

These are the characteristics of the four major holiday seasons. We give you tips to avoid traffic jams and long lines (they work well for me every time).



1. Golden Week ゴールデンウイーク

(April 29th – May 5th in 2022)

The Golden Week holidays, which consists of consecutive national holidays and weekends, starts in late April. Most people in Japan are extremely busy until the holiday, because Japan’s fiscal and academic year usually begins in April. So a great many people join a company, transfer, or begin a new school year at the same time.

As a result, many people feel exhausted by the whirl of changes and think "It's Golden Week. I want to go somewhere!"



  • Because Children's Day on May 5 is a big part of the GW holidays, many people visit family-friendly places such as theme parks, and seaside or mountain attractions.

  • Trains are generally less crowded while automobile traffic increases greatly and traffic jams are common.

  • Many people to on day-trips or overnight.

  • The busiest hours are midday to evening, from 10 AM to 7 PM.


  • Take a train for day-trips, as it is much easier to get around.

  • Drive during the night-time when traffic is usually much lighter. (The exception is on the last night of Golden Week.)

  • If possible, go out on day-trips after Golden Week. (If you can avoid it, don't try to go out when it's crowded.)


  • 5月5日は日本ではこどもの日なので、子供が喜ぶ場所(テーマパークや海・山)へのお出かけが目立つ

  • 車で移動する人も多く渋滞するが電車はそれほど混まない

  • 日帰り、1泊で出かける人も多い

  • 渋滞の時間帯は10:00〜19:00


  • 昼間のお出かけは電車を使う(移動は間違いなくスムーズ)

  • 夜のドライブを楽しむ:夜は渋滞しない(ゴールデンウイーク最終日は除く)

  • 日帰りで行けるならゴールデンウイークの後に行く(わざわざ混む日に行かない)


2. Obon Season お盆

(August 6th–14th or August 11th–16th in 2022)

Obon is a bit of a worrisome holiday season because even Japanese people don't know the exact dates when it starts and ends. This season originally derives from the custom that the spirits of our ancestors come home temporarily to visit their families.

The Obon holiday period varies varies greatly between employers. Some companies schedule defined holidays for all employees while others allow employees to designate their own days off.Although there is no clear period, it is generally customary for people to take off some days during the Obon period, either as Obon specifically or as "summer vacation."



  • Many people take long holidays during this period.

  • Many people travel far distances, not only to their hometowns, but often to Hokkaido, Okinawa, and overseas.

  • Oceanside locations get very crowded, particularly popular beach resorts.

  • It is difficult to book flights and Shinkansen.

  • Sometimes, metropolitan areas are less crowded. (Although many places-such as restaurants-may be closed.)


  • Avoid long-distance travel.

  • If you do plan to travel, book early. (It is advisable to book travel immediately after Golden Week.)

  • If you're driving, plan to drive at night. (Some highways may still be crowded.)

  • If your workplace allows it, stay at work and take a trip after Obon.


  • 長期旅行に使われる

  • 遠出する人が多い

  • 海沿いが混む(ゴールデンウイークと同じ)

  • 飛行機、新幹線の予約が取りづらい

  • 大都市の繁華街は空いていることもある


  • 遠出を避ける

  • どうしても旅行したいなら早めに予約をする(ゴールデンウイークが終わったら検討開始)

  • 夜は空いている(高速道路は渋滞している場合があるので注意)

  • 会社が営業しているなら休まない(お盆が終わってから出かけよう)


3. Silver Week シルバーウイーク

(September 17th–25th in 2022)

Silver Week is a miniature version of Golden Week, started around 2009. From year to year, the timing of national holidays and weekends can be bad and make Silver Week less attractive as an extended holiday. However, despite the specifics of the calendar, many places are packed anyhow, since mid-September is generally a great time to go out. It is starting to cool down after the hot and humid summer months, and there is an abundance of delicious seasonal foods being harvested in early fall.



  • Travel trends vary with to the timing of holidays and weekends. (In 2022, Silver Week isn't great, because the holidays don't fall on successive days.)

  • Because of the general weather patterns, there is a tendency for people to go to the mountainside rather than the seaside.

  • Places that are known for their gourmet fare tend to get jam-packed.

  • Many people take day-trips.

  • It’s generally easier to book hotels, flights, and trains in comparison with Golden Week and Obon.


  • It can be a good challenge to take a trip. (Note that some attractions can be crowded.)

  • Avoid peak hours (lunch and dinner times) if you want to eat at popular eateries.

  • Many places are easier to book at night.












4. New Year's Season 年末年始

(Around December 28th in 2022 – January 4th in 2023)

The New Year's holidays in Japan stretches from the end of December to the beginning of January in celebration of the new year, Shogatsu. Although it's relatively short in comparison with the Christmas break for many people in western countries, but in Japan people typically buy lots of food and drinks at the end of the year to have a laid-back time during the Shogatsu holidays. Most people tend to return to their ancestral homes to spend Shogatsu with their families, much like during Obon.



  • At the end of the year, shopping districts especially in big cities get very crowded with shoppers. Department stores and large malls get particularly crowded.

  • Traffic in and out of shopping districts get very heavy.

  • At tourist attractions, people stay for longer times than most of the year.

  • Shinkansen, flights, and highways are generally jam-packed with travelers destined for their hometowns.

  • During the first few days of January, the areas around major shrines are extremely crowded.


  • Book early if you are planning to travel during the New Year’s period. It is advisable to start planning by October.

  • Instead of physically visiting stores, try shopping online.

  • Try Hatsumode (the first visit of the year to a shrine or temple) on January 3rd. It is generally extremely overcrowded on the 1st.


  • 年末は繁華街やショッピング街が混雑する(特に百貨店、街のショッピングモールなど)

  • ショッピングエリアに向かう交通が渋滞する

  • 観光地は長期宿泊客が多くなる

  • 地方へ帰る新幹線、飛行機、高速道路が混む

  • 正月は大きな神社周辺が混雑


  • 年末に旅行を計画する場合は予約を早めに取る(10月くらいには計画を)

  • お買い物はできるだけお店で買わずオンラインで

  • 初詣は1月3日に行く(1月1日の混雑は激しすぎ!)


How useful are these characteristics and tips?

They are just my personal observations and experience, but I really hate crowded places. So I hope that they are helpful.

Of course, some people say that "competing with crowds are part of the thrill of holiday seasons."

How do you plan to spend your holidays in Japan? Do you enjoy them? Please share your thoughts and experiences, such as, "This is weird," "This is how I spend my time," or whatever comes to mind.






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