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Koinobori kites, the traditional festival decorations for Children's Day during Golden Week in Japan.
Koinobori kites, the traditional festival decorations for Children's Day during Golden Week in Japan. Image: Takahiro Kawamura/iStock
travel

Golden Week holiday destinations in Japan for your star sign

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By Jessica Sayuri Boissy

I know it’s a cliche, but change is the only constant in life. This truism becomes even more evident during eclipse season, a twice-yearly celestial event spanning four weeks every six months.

Coming from the Greek word ekleipsis, or “abandonment,” these ominous occurrences  always come in pairs — solar eclipse at the new moon and lunar eclipse at the full moon — and unfold across an axis of opposing zodiac signs. Long believed to be a dragon devouring the luminaries, the diminishing light in our sky, even temporarily, brings plot twists and turns when our cosmic light switch is turned off.

Following the Libra lunar eclipse on March 25, the fourth eclipse in the Aries-Libra axis will be a fiery, forward-looking Aries solar eclipse on April 9. All this while Mercury — the planet of cognition and communication — is moonwalking for three weeks during its triannual retrograde in the sign of the ram from April 2 to 25.

Be prepared for travel snafus on the road and in the air — especially when planning one’s Golden Week holiday itinerary, which kicks off in late April. Remember to stay cool-headed, whether stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic or accidentally double-booking a reservation, because April will be a month filled with unexpected surprises while reaching your destination or even your destiny.

This monthly travel series with astrological insights — from your sun and rising sign — will personalize travel destinations across Japan alongside the zodiac constellations and their ruling planets.

1. Aries (Mar. 20-Apr. 20): Mobility Resort Motegi

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Aerial view of Mobility Resort Motegi (formerly known as Twin Ring Motegi) in Tochigi Prefecture. Image: DREAMNIKON/iStock

Leave it to Arians to get revved up about the freedom and romanticism of the open road.

If they had a Golden Week playlist, these Mars-ruled natives would blast “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf — a rock anthem written by Mars Bonfire with wolves naturally signified by the fierce, red planet. However, the urge to “head out on the highway” could be met with the simmering stress of being stuck in peak congestion as others go looking for adventure during Japan’s national holiday.

Take to the race tracks of Mobility Resort Motegi in Tochigi Prefecture and put the pedal to the metal at this unique venue that fuses motorsports and car culture amid the great outdoors. Formerly known as Twin Ring Motegi, Arians can feel like rock stars racing down the same circuits that pro drivers zip through at breakneck speed during the MotoGP world championship.

Those without a driver’s license can still taste the thrill while zip-lining across a forest canopy. Alternatively, Arians can dabble in family-friendly fun at Mobility Resort Motegi Park, which offers motorcycle training and obstacle courses to channel the celestial ram’s natural competitive drive.

Get fast and furious down these daring but not deadly circuits, whether you’re a motorsports enthusiast or a budding race fan!

2. Taurus (Apr. 21-May 21): Hitachi Seaside Park

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Nemophila (Baby Blue Eyes) field at Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture. Image: Kei Oguchi/iStock

At their core, Taureans are pacifists who prefer sitting down and sniffing fragrant flowers like the character in Ferdinand the Bull, the children’s classic about a peace-loving cattle.

​​Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture is where these Venusian bulls keen on sensory indulgence can wallow at the visual buffet of over 5 million nemophila “baby blue eyes” blooming from mid-April to early May.

Although the peak blooms coincide with Golden Week, Taureans should have no problem pacing themselves among the throngs spilling out onto Miharashi Hill, where the sea of sky-blue flowers and cerulean sky merges into a seamless horizon. Swap “mule” for “bull” to understand how this sure-footed earth sign can also be steady but stubborn, clogging up foot traffic while plopping down to take in the blooms and abundant sunlight.

Taurus is a fixed sign, after all, making the celestial bull a master of slowly settling into mundane moments that bring pleasure. So sniff the sweet scent of the “baby blues” to your fluttering heart’s content and fill your stomach with nemophila-inspired sweets this spring!

3. Gemini (May 22-June 22): Takamori Senbonzakura (Sakura Road)

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The idyllic winding road of "Takamori Senbonzakura" (Sakura Road) in Kumamoto Prefecture is a must-visit for Gemini. Image: GaijinPot Travel

Multitasker is Gemini’s middle name. This mutable air sign’s mercurial mind can switch its attention from one task to another in a matter of seconds.

Although not one to condone multitasking behind the wheel, the idyllic winding road of Takamori Senbonzakura (Sakura Road) in Kumamoto Prefecture is a must-visit for Gemini.

Earning its name from the thousands of cherry trees lining this scenic drive with hairpin curves, Geminis will readily repeat a cycle of driving, stopping and snapping photos while ascending this four-kilometer-long road on Mount Aso.

With “sakura” in its name, spring is the prime time to visit for a spellbinding display of pink-and-white Somei-Yoshino to yamazakura (the rustic mountain variety) blossoms blanketing the hillside — specifically from late March to mid-April.

There’s no need to get heady here. Simply partake in the Japanese pastime of hanami (flower viewing), catching sight of a sakura fubuki (blossom blizzard) fluttering in the light breeze.

4. Cancer (June 23-July 22): Shodoshima (Shodo Island)

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The island of Shodoshima offers stunning nature, beaches, hiking trails, old towns and film locations. Image: Jeremy Moorhead/GaijinPot Travel

Not known to retreat from the comfort of their shell, Cancerians will feel beckoned by the open sea, sky and coastal landscape of the Mediterranean-like island of Shodoshima.

Situated in the Seto Inland Sea, this picturesque island derives its name from the kanji characters for “small bean” — a nod to its centuries-old soy sauce production à la the soybean and plump green olives grown on its hillsides since 1908.

Embodying the lunar archetype, Cancerians are your stereotypical cooks, whipping up homey and hearty dishes for the entire fam. What better than savoring and sharing the flavors of Shodoshima with freshly pressed olive oil and barrel-aged fermented soy sauce?

Pay a visit to Olive Park to learn about the island’s olive oil production that began at the tail-end of the Meiji era (1868-1912). Then stop by the Marukin Soy Sauce Museum to marvel at the making of artisanal soy sauce in colossal cedar barrels — far exceeding the commercial condiment found in typical supermarkets.

5. Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Kasama Himatsuri Pottery Festival

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A venue entrance to the Kasama Himamatsuri Pottery Festival in Ibaraki Prefecture. Image: a_text/Pixta

Ruled by the pulsating heart of our solar system, Leos fathom the potency of fostering original thinking into artistic pursuits. Held annually during Golden Week, the Kasama Himatsuri Pottery Festival in Ibaraki Prefecture is where craftspeople take their spark of creativity and turn it into crockery — from decorative earthenware to glazed creations.

The 43rd installment, spanning seven days, is scheduled from April 29 to May 5 with over 200 stalls lining the open-air venue of Kasama Art Forest Park. It’s sure to leave Leos inspired and impressed by local kiln-fired ceramics bursting with creativity — or shall we say — solar power!

6. Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Okutama

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Go on an all-day hike in the holy peaks of Mount Mitake on the western edge of Tokyo. Image: Erika van 't Veld/GaijinPot Travel

When not tidying up or decluttering their literal and metaphorical mess via the KonMari method, Virgoans dabble in retreating to digital detoxes and mindful life hacks.

With sign ruler Mercury doing its triannual, three-week retrograde in Aries this April — going in reverse on April 2 and back to forward on April 25 — the winged messenger’s mischief and mishaps make retreating from worldly demands more than a wellness fad.

Okutama is a dream destination for overworked and overwhelmed Virgos seeking a solitary journey off the grid and in nature. Located on the western edge of Tokyo, this haven is where the winged maiden can unplug and become untethered to digital devices and correspondence.

As the sign polarity to sacrificial Pisces, Virgo can also fall into martyrdom when devoting its time and resources to aiding others — learning the act of balance from its succeeding sign, Libra. Instead, turn your devotion towards self-restoration, be it an all-day hike in the holy peaks of Mount Mitake or a soothing soak in natural hot springs.

7. Libra (Sep. 23-Oct. 22): Hoki Museum in Chiba City

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An aerial view of Chiba City, the capital of Chiba Prefecture. Image: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/iStock

If the Libran archetype could be summed up in two words — two as in the number of weighing pans hanging from the scales’ balance beam — it would have to be beauty and balance.

Another pair of twos — art and architecture — embodying the celestial scales’ ethos of equilibrium and enduring artistic expression can be admired at the Hoki Museum in Chiba City. Before stepping inside the exhibition space with pristine white walls and works of realism by contemporary Japanese artists, Librans will be taken by the geometric beauty of the building itself.

Both futuristic yet timeless, minimal yet bold, the museum has equally attracted art-goers and architecture aficionados since opening in 2010. The permanent collection comprises roughly 500 realist paintings, spanning vast landscapes to everyday objects, alongside rotating exhibitions featuring mostly Japan-born artists.

8. Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22): Mount Osore

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Mount Osore, in Aomori Prefecture, is an eight-peaked volcanic mountain where it's said spirits cross over into the afterlife and converge with the land of the living. Image: TAKASHI ISOBE/iStock

Scorpios possess a deep knowing that beauty can be found even in the darkest, most desolate places.

Mount Osore is one such earthly paradise for the bereaved in Aomori Prefecture’s Shimokita Peninsula, a desolate destination at the northernmost tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Although the kanji characters for Osorezan (Mount Osore) spell out “fear mountain,” there’s nothing scary about this sacred site surrounded by nature’s serenity.

But to those who make the pilgrimage, this eight-peaked volcanic mountain is where spirits cross over into the afterlife and converge with the land of the living.

An hour’s trek up a long, winding road from the forested foothills, past Lake Usori, will lead stoic Scorpios to Osorezan Bodaiji Temple (founded in 862 AD). Plumes of sulfurous mist arising from the ground via geothermal springs have built the belief that the gates to the underworld exist here.

This not only makes it the abode of Pluto (Scorpio’s modern ruler), but the otherworldly area comes complete with a vermillion bridge over the Sanzu River — the equivalent of the River Styx dividing mortals from the deceased.

In the words of Depeche Mode, Scorpios can “enjoy the silence” of Mount Osore while contemplating the age-old question of mortality.

9. Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Mongolia Village Tenger

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Vast expanses of open sky and unspoiled vistas are enough to seize the hearts of Sagittarians in the picturesque Nasu highlands of Tochigi Prefecture. Image: wataru aoki/iStock

Vast expanses of open sky, unspoiled vistas and wild herds of horses are enough to seize the hearts of Sagittarians.

Fortunately, Sags can feel at home on the range at Mongolia Village Tenger in the picturesque town of Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture. Forgo glamping for the rustic outdoors and get a taste of Mongolia’s nomadic tradition in one of 31 cylindrical yurts for the weekend.

Although you won’t see archers on horseback, culturally curious Sagittarians can learn about Mongolian customs and culture through on-site workshops. These include a musical performance of the morin khuur — a horse-headed fiddle — and donning Mongolia’s national dress (deel) and headdress.

Being half-human and half-horse, the centaur will gallop in glee at the freedom and free rein found at this ger campsite.

10. Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 21): Karuizawa

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A reflection of greenery on the water of Kumoba Pond at Karuizawa, Nagano. Image: fannrei/iStock

Capricorns are invited to “turn on, tune in and drop out” at the mountain resort of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture.

While Caps may cringe at this counterculture mantra, the irony is not lost on saturnine sea-goats that Timothy Leary himself possessed an exalted planet (Mars) in the most diligent sign. Putting that trivia aside, Karuizawa makes an ideal day trip from Tokyo, accessible in an hour aboard the fastest train service along the Hokuriku Shinkansen.

This is welcome news to Capricorns, who find themselves hard-pressed for time with an ever-growing list of obligations. However, make it your duty during Golden Week to discover equal gain in resting and doing the 9-to-5 grind.

Start your day with a sunrise hike up Mount Asama, then visit the rocky, rugged landscape formed by molten lava at Onioshidashi Park, which borders Nagano and Gunma prefectures.  Lastly, put your hands in prayer at Asama Kannondo Temple, a mountain sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of mercy.

In addition to learning self-compassion, Capricorns can learn to turn relaxation into a coveted routine amidst this verdant resort town.

11. Aquarius (Jan. 22-Feb. 20): JAXA Tsukuba Space Center

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Take a picture in front of JAXA’s H-II rocket. Image: Cassandra Lord

Aquarius knows you don’t need to be an astronaut or cosmonaut to appreciate the coming reality of space tourism. Leave it to this emotionally untethered air sign to be the first one rocking those NASA “I Need My Space” T-shirts in public.

Although Aquarians can’t book a ticket into space just yet, the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Tsukuba Space Center provides a futuristic backdrop for these cosmic “aliens” to fuel their not-so-far-off fantasy of the space-age utopia.

Located in Ibaraki Prefecture, JAXA’s joint visitor attraction and research facility showcases the latest in its space developments. Before entering the building, this fixed sign — notorious for its deadpan demeanor — will be stunned by the 50-meter-long H-II rocket standing in the plaza.

Then, be blown out of this world by guided tours of the Kibo mission control room, real astronaut training grounds, and full-scale replicas of rocket engines and spacecrafts, including Hayabusa2.

Aquarians will leave convinced that we’re truly living in the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

12. Pisces (Feb. 21-Mar. 19): Ghibli Park

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Surrender to fantasy and be spirited away to the magical world of Hayao Miyazaki at Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture. Image: daysgoby_JPN/Pixta

Surrender to fantasy and be spirited away to the magical world of Hayao Miyazaki at Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture.

Pisceans know best how fantasy and fairytales are the bedrock for suspending belief — even for the briefest moment — to escape into imagination. Hence, a visit to Studio Ghibli’s amusement park, with five themed areas capturing globally loved animated films, is a must for these fantastical fish.

Not to be confused with the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, Ghibli Park is an alternate reality from the two-story building in Mitaka — bringing whimsical 2D animations to life in our tangible 3D world. Since opening in November 2022, the last of the immersive Miyazaki-esque “worlds,” dubbed “Valley of Witches,” finally saw the light of day on March 16.

Whether it’s a true-to-life reproduction of the Okino residence from Kiki’s Delivery Service or a real-life, rideable Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, Pisceans are welcome to slip into the strange screenplays of anime masterpieces.

Jessica Sayuri Boissy is a practicing traditional Western astrologer in Tokyo. She has a Practitioners Level Horary Certificate from The School of Traditional Astrology (STA) and earned her Fundamentals Certificate for natal and predictive techniques at Kepler College.

© Japan Today

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Mongolia Village Tenger, apparently. I could do that, though I could do any of the places up there (haven’t visited any of them), especially Ghibli Park.

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