10 Best Things to Do in Golden Week in Japan

Golden Week Guide: What to Do in Golden Week in Japan This Year

Golden Week in Japan might be the best or the worst time of the year depending on who you ask. A string of national holidays turns into a week-long vacation for most Japanese people at the beginning of May, during the peak spring season. Yep, the weather is bound to be awesome, meaning bustling streets and epic crowds on touristic hotspots. It’s definitely a challenge to navigate the masses but fear not, with planning and patience nothing will stop you from making the best of your time during Japan’s busiest holiday. So if you’re trying to figure out things to do in Golden Week, read on!

1. Visit Tokyo

Tokyo tower, tulip blossoms, hanazono inari shrine, Tokyo SkytreeWait, didn’t I just say this was the busiest week in Japan? That’s right. It sounds counter-intuitive but this is actually a good time to stroll leisurely around the capital, as this is the week when most tokyoites will be swarming the other prefectures, meaning that Tokyo is actually going to be a bit quieter than usual! So if you happen to be in Japan’s largest metropolis during Golden Week, be sure to check the suggestions below

Best Things to Do during Golden Week in Tokyo

2. Cherry blossom spots in Tohoku or Hokkaido

Cherry blossom locations across tohokuMissed the cherry blossoms in Tokyo? You still have time to bask in Japan’s pink spring glory if you head up north! Tohoku is generally a great area for off-the-beaten-path exploration since it’s still a generally underrated region with a lot of nature and incredible landscapes and peak blooming season lasts until late April, so you still have a good chance during Golden Week.

Or, to be sure, you can head to Hokkaido where peak cherry blossom season is usually during late April and early May. Check the following links for more details!

Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku

Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Hokkaido

3. Check out the locations of the best Koinobori festivals in Japan

Koinobori in JapanIf you’ve ever noticed these colorful carp-shaped flags that are typically hanged in many places around spring, these are called Koinobori! They’re meant to celebrate Children’s Day on May 5, but are usually placed since early or mid-April in many locations across the country, creating a cheerful and striking sight with hundreds or even thousands of carps flying in the wind!

There are many places to choose from but some of the prettiest locations include Tsuetate Onsen in Kumamoto, Tokyo Tower, or Tatebayashi Castle Town in Gunma 

▶ Tsuetate Onsen official website: https://tsuetate-onsen.com/english

▶ Tokyo Travel official website with information about koinobori in Tokyo Tower: https://www.gotokyo.org/en/spot/ev015/index.html

▶ Tatebayashi Tourism official website with event information: http://www.utyututuji.jp/world/en.html

4. Hakata Dontaku Festival in Fukuoka

Photo by フェレス (Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.1) via Wikimedia Commons

One of the biggest festivals held during Golden Week, Hakata Dontaku Festival in Fukuoka draws around 2 million spectators every year, to witness its extravagant costumed dancers and decorated floats. It’s said that It originated in 1179 to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but after a temporary suspension during Meiji era, it was brought back to life under the new name of Dontaku.

Said name is derived from the Dutch word “zondag” (Sunday) and eventually it became one of Japan’s most popular festivals. The Hakata Dontaku Port Festival is a celebration of the city’s rich history and culture, attracting millions of visitors each year with its parade and performances. 

5. Visit flower festivals (except on Greenery Day!)

Nemophila at Hitachi seaside park, Shibazakura, Wisteria in Tochigi, Azaleas in KomuroyamaAlthough not related to Golden Week, since it’s peak spring, late April and early May tend to be the best days for some of the prettiest flower festivals! Besides, one of the national holidays of Golden Week is Greenery Day (Midori no Hi, みどりの日) so it sounds like a perfect plan for May 4, right? Right?

Wrong! Everyone’s thought pattern will be along the same lines! This is a nice week to visit parks and gardens as long as you avoid the very same day designated to celebrate them to avoid the crowds. Now, before you thank me for warning you, these are some of our staff suggestions:

Wisteria Festival at Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi

Nemophila Harmony at Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki

Best Shibazakura Festivals in Japan

Komuroyama Park Azalea Festival

6. Seihaku Festival in Ishikawa

Seihaku Festival in Ishikawa
Photo by Nskw99ep (Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

The annual Seihaku Festival in Nanao City, Ishikawa Prefecture, takes place during May 3-5 and features the country’s largest wheeled floats, known as dekayama or giant mountains. These massive, handcrafted floats stand 12 meters tall, weigh 20 tons, and are adorned with life-size figures depicting famous Kabuki plays.

Visitors are encouraged to help pull the floats through the narrow streets to the accompaniment of ritual chants and music. The festival also includes traditional dances, street food, and game stalls, making it a fun experience for all. Don’t miss the highlight of the parade, when the dekayama makes a turn with the combined strength of volunteers.

7. Naha Hari in Okinawa

Naha Hari in Okinawa
Photo by Fumihiko Ueno (Licensed under CC BY 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

The Naha Hari is Okinawa Prefecture’s biggest boat festival, showcasing colorful dragon boats called haryusen that measure 14.5 meters long, accommodating up to 32 rowers and 42 people including helmsmen, flag bearers, and gong beaters. Held annually from May 3-5, the festival coincides with the Golden Week holidays.

The event features exciting boat races, lively onshore song and dance performances, local cuisine, and spectacular fireworks displays. Visitors can also climb aboard the dragon boats and experience the thrill of paddling.

8. Hamamatsu Festival in Shizuoka

Hamamatsu Festival in ShizuokaOn May 3-5, the coastal city of Hamamatsu celebrates one of the most famous festivals in Japan. The festival originated in the 16th century to celebrate the birth of a baby son of the Lord of Hamamatsu Castle and continues to thrive 450 years later. The three-day festival features kite-flying by neighborhood teams during the day, with each district designing and building its kite.

Visitors can enjoy festival stalls and a beer tent while watching the kite-flying and even participate in a kite-flying demonstration. At sunset, there is a procession of ornate parade floats, representing each district of Hamamatsu, paraded through the city streets from 18:30 until late at night

▶ Hamamatsu Festival official website: https://hamamatsu-daisuki.net/matsuri/

9. Nanbucho Spring Festival in Aomori

Nanbucho Spring FestivalThe Nanbucho Spring Festival, held on May 3 and 4 at Hoko-ji Temple in Nanbu Town, at the foot of Mt. Nakui. It features a sparkling procession of children in colorful pink and green costumes along the rows of a thousand pine trees and cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Another highlight of the event is the Enburi performances, ritual dances to pray for good harvests and a local unique tradition that is worth watching. In addition, other activities are carried out, such as stage events, blossom viewing walks, yoga and sutra chanting at the temple.

10. All Japan Kokeshi Competition in Miyagi 

Kokeshi dollsIf you are an enthusiast of Japanese traditional kokeshi dolls, this is the spot for you! Every year on May 3-5, Shiroishi City in Miyagi Prefecture holds Japan’s largest kokeshi festival, the All Japan Kokeshi Competition. A showcase of traditional, new, and creative dolls from across the country, with craftspeople competing with their best skills.

In addition to the exhibition, the festival features craftsmen’s demonstrations and a celebration of local products, with sales of traditional items both from Miyagi and other Tohoku prefectures.

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Written by

Photographer, journalist, and avid urban cyclist, making sense of Japan since 2017. I was born in Caracas and lived for 14 years in Barcelona before moving to Tokyo. Currently working towards my goal of visiting every prefecture in Japan, I hope to share with readers the everlasting joy of discovery and the neverending urge to keep exploring.