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What Happens When Japan Goes on a Week-Long Vacation?

Golden Week at Osaka JR station, May 4, 2007, photo by Chris Gladis. CC 2.0.

Golden Week at Osaka JR station, May 4, 2007, photo by Chris Gladis. CC 2.0.

There are mixed emotions as Japan's “Golden Week” extended holiday wraps up. Some are sad to return to work, while others are happy that family is out of the house and life will return to normal.

Golden Week is a cluster of holidays in Japan that falls at the end of April and the beginning of May, and many Japanese workers get about a week off. In 2015, the “week” began on April 29.

Since it is common in Japan for most people to go on vacation at the same time, the beginning and the end of Golden Week means massive numbers of people out on the roads, on the trains, and in airports. The end of a Golden Week, known as the “U-Turn” rush, as millions of people return home, is a favorite topic of newscasts:

[Caption] Final day of Golden Week: U-Turn rush causes crowds to pour through airports and train stations.

Golden Week is typically the longest vacation stretch enjoyed in Japan during the year. Unlike other extended holidays such New Year's at the beginning of January and O-Bon, the festival of the dead in mid-August, which are gatherings for extended family, Golden Week can be celebrated as one pleases.

The Golden Week holidays originated in the postwar era as a way to allow urban dwellers to return to the countryside to help plant rice on small family farms. Even to this day, as a matter of fact, such small farms still dominate Japan's rural landscape:

This Golden Week I went back home to plant rice. I'm bagged… (^o^;)

However, for many people in Japan, Golden Week means at least a week away from work. Like anyone else, Japanese people often dread returning to work after such an extended vacation:


Of course, there is the typical problem of an overflowing inbox:

The reality that Golden Week is over sets in when I notice I have 1,158 unread emails in my inbox.

On the other hand, some people are relieved to return to the comfort of life's routines:

Golden Week is finally over. My husband is going back to work, and the kid is going back to kindergarten. Finally I can go to the bathroom in peace.

The opportunity to enjoy so much time away from work can ironically become a source of stress:

Golden Week is finally over. My husband also used some of his vacation days to take a total of nine days off, and he's been totally zoned out the whole time. What a treat. At the beginning he was all “I have 9 days off in a row!” but by the halfway mark it became a depressing countdown: “Just 3 days left… just 2 days left.” Anyway, I have to get ready for my part-time job. For the rest of us life is back to normal.

For homemakers, Golden Week can actually mean more work:

Golden Week is finally over. As soon as Golden Week began my husband came down with a 38 degree fever, and spent the second half of the holiday in bed. I spent the entire time nursing him and looking after our daughter. I'm way more tired than I would be on a regular day. (ー ー;) *whew* I wish I had a high fever so I could sleep for 4 days, but that would be out of the question.

Not everyone was happy to see the end of Golden Week.

Today we celebrated the end of Golden Week by celebrating my wife's birthday. We went out for Korean BBQ – her choice, even though we ate a ton of BBQ yesterday. That's my wife.☆

Others are already waiting for the next extended holiday, “Silver Week”, in September.

While Golden Week may be over, never fear! Silver Week is just around the corner!

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