Japan’s Mega Holiday Season, Golden Week
Public offices, banks, and many companies will close during the much anticipated Golden Week. No doubt that you will see people on the move as they gear up to hit their holiday hot spots. Along with New Years and Obon, Golden Week is one of the busiest holiday seasons during the year. It is collection of four national holidays occurring within seven days placed between back to back weekends. Trains, airports and sightseeing spots tend to get very crowded during this time, as tourist accommodations are usually booked out well in advance.
This year Golden Week will officially begin on Saturday, April 28th followed by Showa Day (Showa-no-hi) on April 29th. This is the birth date of the former Emperor Showa, who died in 1989. Prior to 2006, this day was reserved for Greenery Day, which was used to show gratitude and respect towards nature, but it was mainly due to Emperor Showa’s love for nature that Greenery Day was instituted.
The next holiday is followed by Kenpō Kinenbi, better known as Constitution Day which falls on May 3rd. It was on this day in 1947, that the new post war constitution was put into effect. The third holiday of Golden Week is the aforementioned Greenery Day or Midori-no-hi, which was moved from April 29th to May 4th. Prior to being designated as Greenery Day, May 4th was considered a national holiday simply by Japanese law, which declared that any day that fell between two national holidays shall be recognized as another national holiday.
This gives us our final holiday of Golden Week, May 5th, which is Children’s Day or Kodomo-no-hi. The Boy’s Festival, Tango no Sekku, is also celebrated on this day. Families pray for the health and future success of their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls, both symbolizing strength, power, and good fortune in life. The Girl’s Festival is celebrated on March 3rd.
On Okinawa, the most popular event during Golden Week is the Naha Haraii, which will be held from May 3-5 at the Naha New Port (Naha Shinko). This annual festival includes dragon boat races, live music, games, a variety of food and drink booths, and much, much more. Though the dragon boat race is the most popular attraction, many people come to see the large fireworks display held each night.
Another major attraction during Golden Week is the annual Ie Island Lily Festival, which runs from April 22-May 6. In addition to the one-million lilies on display, there will also be live music and stage performances each weekend through the end of Golden Week. Ie Island is a just a 30-minute ferry ride from the Motobu Port. While aboard the ship you will find plenty of opportunities to take beautiful panoramic views along the way.
Carp Streamers — Koinobori’s. According to legend, carps would make the long journey upstream overcoming a number of obstacles along the way, and at the end of their journey, they would turn into mystical dragons, fulfilling their life’s goal of reaching wisdom and success. Because of their arduous journey, carps are considered tenacious and resilient creatures, which are attributes many Japanese parents would like to see in their children. Thus, koinobori’s are popular ornaments often seen leading up to Golden Week as the season culminates to the final holiday of Children’s Day. There are a good number of places throughout the island that fly hundreds of koinobori’s. The Hijya River of Kadena Town will have streamers flown from Apr. 29th to May 10th. You can also see them at the Nakijin Carp Streamer Festival at the Nakijin Road Station in Nakijin Village from Apr. 28th to May 7. Other places that will have carp streamers are the Oku district of Kunigami Village May 3~5, Haneji Dam in Nago City Apr. 29th to May 6th, and at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman City from Apr. 28th to May 6. In Motobu Town, they will put up bonito fish streamers along with the carp streamers as Motobu is known for acquiring the much-desired tuna delicacy.
Finally, there are a number of special attractions and special offers designed specifically for children. Kodomo-no-Kuni (Okinawa Zoo) offers free admission for children 12 and under from May 3-6.
Shuri Castle Parks offers free workshop experience for children May 3~6.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium offers free admission for children ages 15 and under on May 4th and 5th. The Tropical Dream Center Oceanic Culture Museum (Planetarium) at the Ocean Expo Park offers free admission on April 28th and May 4th.
Okinawa World theme park will hold a Kids Festival special event from May 3-6.
The DINO Park in Okashigoten Nago branch will held the Dinosaur Experience Festival from May 3~6 and offers free entry for under 6 in May 5 and 6. The annual one of biggest Kids Festival the “15th Adventure World” will be held at the Chatan Dome from May 3rd to the 6th.
The Adventure World cerebrate the 15th anniversary this year and offering special price for entry that ¥900 in advance for both Kids (4~15) and Adults (Over 15), and ¥1200 at door, under 3 are free. There are free various bouncy ride, water sliders, snow adventure and it will good to get a cool in the hot holidays!