Golden Week traditionally means two things in Japan – fun-filled activities and big crowds everywhere. The week is so-named because of several national holidays over a seven-day period, though there aren’t as many consecutive holidays this year because some of the days off fall on a weekend.
The week starts on April 29 with Showa Day (formerly known as Greenery Day until 2007), celebrating the birthday of the Showa Emperor who passed away in 1989. May 3 is Kenpo Kinenbi, which is Constitution Day, marking the promulgation of Japan's new postwar constitution in 1947. Next comes May 4, which is Greenery Day. The final holiday of Golden Week is Children’s Day on May 5.
Families with sons display “koinobori” (carp streamers) from mid-April until early May, wishing that their sons will grow healthy and strong. The koinobori custom was initiated by the ancient Japanese to indicate the whereabouts of brave warriors. That’s why, even today, koinobori are still considered symbols of courage, masculinity and success in life.
Koinobori must be set in a specific order. The largest black koinobori comes first because it is considered representative of the father. Then, the smaller red koinobori which symbolizes the mother. Next are the blue and green smaller koinobori, representing sons of the household.
Just like New Year and Obon week in Japan, transportation and sightseeing spots will be packed to overflowing with visitors. But there are plenty of activities. Here are a few for young and old.
Kite festival – Tokyo
The Kasukabe no Otako Age Matsuri (photo below) is a traditional kite festival held on the bank of the Edo river. The kites used in this festival are made by members of a kite-culture preservation committee. May 3-5 at Edogawa Kasenshiki ground http://www.enjoytokyo.jp/life/event/801804/
Dragon Boat Race - Okinawa
The Naha Hari Dragon Boat Race comes from Chinese culture and is one of many cultural items adopted by the former Ryukyu kingdom where canoes were used to get between islands. Over time, competitions between neighbors became a test of ability. http://www.naha-navi.or.jp/nahahari.html
Treasure Garden – Gunma
Covering 80,000 square meters, Treasure Garden at Horikucho, Tatebayashi, has more than a 250,000 shibazakura flowers and 220,000 blue flowers. The shibazakura aren’t expected to be as spectacular as in usual years due to the weird weather this year, but the roses are no less beautiful. If you want to be overwhelmed by a sea of flowers, Treasure Garden is the place to be. Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: 500-1,500 yen http://www.sibazakura.com/bluegarden.html
Local Gourmet Festival 2013 – Yomiuri Land
Yomiuri Land will stage a food festival, gathering about 40 dishes from 14 prefectures plus Tokyo, Hokkaido, Osaka and Kyoto. You can enjoy a variety of food, including beers, and sweets from different regions. April 27 and May 6 http://www.yomiuriland.co.jp
Super Comic City 22 – Tokyo Big Sight
Shopping paradise dedicated to every possible comic fan. May 3-4, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. http://www.akaboo.jp/event/0534super22.html
Midori no Festival - Saitama
Kitamoto City in Saitama Prefecture will hold nature-related activities at the Kitamoto City Children’s Park. The kids can enjoy nature through walk rallies, planting seedlings, touching caterpillars, and so on. April 29, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. http://www.city.kitamoto.saitama.jp/welcome/matsuri_midori.htm
Pet Expo 2013 - Chiba
Makuhari Messe hosts this annual event that includes a Dog Fashion Show, Birds’ Circus, etc. You can ride a pony and touch small animals as well. May 3-6, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for children. http://www.pethaku.com
Festival Walk Dreams - Chiba
Fireworks highlight the Festival Walk Soga in Chiba, featuring about 1,500 skyrockets. There will also be many leisure facilities such as spas, shops and restaurants. May 3, 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission: Free http://www.fw-soga.com/
Koinobori Street in Isezaki Mall - Yokohama
This is an annual event, celebrating Children’s Day by displaying koinobori in the 1~7 Streets of Isezaki Mall in Yokohama.
Until May 5 http://www.isezaki.jp/
Mid Green Stage - Tokyo Midtown
Tokyo Midtown introduces its new outside stage, “Mid Green Stage.” To celebrate the new stage, there will be a 3-day-long festival highlighting opera, ballet and classical music. If you are looking for a luxurious time on the green grass, Mid Green Stage music festival is perfect for you. April 27-29
Otomi Jinja Shunki Shin Festival - Fukuoka
One of the biggest festivals of Otomi Jinja. The history of the festival goes back to the year 740 (Nara period) when the Fujiwara no Hirotsugu Rebellion broke out. The festival retells the victory of Kino Maro who ended the rebellion. April 29-May 1 http://www.walkerplus.com/event/ar1040e20922/© Japan Today