Celebrate: Golden Week 2014

In Japan, the week of April 29-May 5 is practically labeled “national vacation week”. Last year, having just returned from a two week trip to Italy with my inlaws, my husband and I stuck pretty close to home for Golden Week. But I have notoriously itchy feet and on May 3rd, I made the mistake of trying to head out to the Mt Aso area with a friend to visit a flower park.

… Three hours later, we actually arrived.

So this year, I wised up. Yup, for all of Golden Week (and then some), I am out of the country. ūüôā

Golden Week is made up of¬†four individual holidays. Starting off the spree on April 29th is Showa Day. This date marks the birthday of the late Emperor Showa (known to most non-Japanese as Hirohito, Japan’s Imperial ruler during World War II). While the current emperor’s birthday is also a holiday (December 23), this celebration was only added to the calendar in 2006.

Next up is Constitution Day, celebrated on May 3rd. It was on this date in 1947 that Japan’s new post-war constitution – a document that was written with much American assistance – was ratified.

The next holiday kind of snuck onto the calendar by default. May 4th is celebrated as Greenery Day. This holiday actually used to fall on April 29th, as the former Emperor Showa was a lover of nature and a fan of plants and flowers. However, thanks to an obscure law, May 4th must be treated as a holiday since it falls between two other national holidays. In any case, Greenery Day was moved and April 29th was renamed.

The last holiday to bookend the week is Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi). As with Girl’s Day, or¬†Hina Matsuri, which is celebrated on March 3rd, this festival has been around for quite a while and – despite the name – honors boys. Families (and municipalities too)¬†will often display colorful carp streamers outside their homes (or over large bodies of water) to mark the presence of young men in a household. Seeing the carp streamers over the river near my home in Okinawa was always, for me, a true sign of spring.

Forgive my laziness but, as with so many of my Japanese compatriots, I’m taking this week as a vacation myself. I’ll pick back up here on Wednesday, May 7th, with a few more autoposts¬†until I actually return home. I hope you all are enjoying spring!

3 thoughts on “Celebrate: Golden Week 2014

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  1. Enjoy your Golden Week away from the madness. This will actually be the first year where I’ve travelled in Japan during the crush – dragging my mum about no less. Must have rocks in my head… ūüėČ

    1. Good luck, Claire! Golden Week can be such a headache but there are some awesome festivals you can catch. I wish you the best … I hope the crowds aren’t too much!

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