Celebrate: Silver Week

Think Japan’s holiday travel madness is reserved only for Golden Week? You’re nearly right, but every five to six years, a special holiday comes around on the calendar – Silver Week.

I have to admit, with the craziness of the move and the trip to Tohoku this past summer, I almost forgot entirely about this holiday. As I mentioned above, it’s not an annual thing. And just as with Golden Week, Silver Week is made up of a few individual holidays that are lumped together into one long travel period.

To make Silver Week, you first need Respect for the Aged Day. This holiday falls annually on the third Monday of September and, perhaps appropriately, honors Japan’s “silver-haired” population. It’s the changing date (number-wise) of this holiday that affects if the year will have a Silver Week or not.

The second holiday you need for Silver Week is the autumnal equinox, which is technically determined by the astronomical calendar. For the most part, the Japanese government recognizes this holiday on September 23. And most years, it is merely a label on the calendar and not an actual celebrated holiday (read: day off).

Look at all those lovely days off in red!
Look at all those lovely days off in red!

HOWEVER. When Coming of Age Day falls on the 21st of September and the equinox follows two days later (on a Wednesday), the middle day is ALSO turned into an observed holiday (much with Greenery Day on May 4th, in Golden Week). Now you have a “week” that runs from Saturday until Wednesday, a rarity outside of Golden Week and the New Year’s holiday. Commence frantic travel plans!

If you’ll be in Japan for Silver Week, or you live here and suddenly realize you have some time off, don’t be surprised if trains are packed, hotels are full and life is fairly miserable for a few days. As it’s autumn, many people will head to the hills – like Nagano and the rest of the Japan Alps – so actually staying in cities like Tokyo and Osaka may prove to be quieter. Maybe you can grab that leisurely lunch at a coveted restaurant you’ve been wanting to for quite some time.

The next Silver Week won’t occur until 2020, so if you missed this one, start getting your plans together for the next! 🙂

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