Yesterday, the Cabinet put a law before the Parliment making the day of ascension to the Imperial throne of the Crown Prince a public holiday. And the following day will also be a holiday. So now it is official: the Japanese will suddenly have Golden Week holiday from April 27 to Monday 6 in 2019. And this is on top of the governement mandate to take five days of paid holiday every year. But it will revert to more normal holidays in 2020. Unless the government declares holidays for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Golden Week was already the preferred holiday week of the Japanese people, mostly since it meant taking three days off to get five days leave . Some years only
two days. But this year, the government is giving everyone a present: An entire vacation week. For families, three days extra pay is nothing to sneeze at, even if they will have to take it out as salary in April the year after.
Why is Japan changing emperor?
The current emperor is really old. He has ruled since 1989, and is 84 years old now. People get tired and frail at that age. Our grandma spends most of the time watching TV. I am pretty sure the Emperor would do the same, but he is going around the country visiting his people, meeting foreign ambassadors, dining with visiting heads of state, and so on. He did a fantastic job supporting people after the Great Northeast Japan earthquake, that led to the Fukushima disaster. You can see that he wants to retire.
The throne accession day
Akihito, the current emperor, will step down on April 30, the day after the holiday that celebrates his father, usually known as Hirohito in the West but the Showa emperor in Japan. His son Naruhito will take over on May 1. Making May 1 a holiday means both April 30 and May 2 become holidays, since they are sandwiched between other holidays. So suddenly the entire week is a holiday, and ending with a long weekend.
The ascension ceremony is not until October, so there will be an extra holiday then.
So what does it mean for tourists?
Much as it pains me to say so, you should not come to Japan between April 27 and May 6. It will be crowded everywhere. Worse than usual, and that was already crowded, as I have written about before. If you can, go after May 6. Then everybody will be at work, and the hotels and especially the ryokan will be empty, more or less. However, museums will be open (it is part of their job as educational institutions), and temples and shrines will not close. Stores will likely keep open, as people on vacation shop more than people at work. Trains will most likely run normal schedules, but there will not be any rush hours, different from the ordinary working days I have written about before.
50 % Off Afterwards
If the potential crowds and full hotels are not enough to make you less interested in coming during Golden Week 2019, here is something plenty of people have pointed out: The prices in hotels after May 6 are half, or even less than half. That is pretty stunning and tells you that May will be a very good time to visit Japan, especially as it is sandwiched between Golden Week and the rainy season. With great weather and small crowds. What is there no to like?
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning four and a half - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on email@example.com, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.