Golden Week (GW) is a series of four Spring holidays in Japan. They're on non-consecutive days: April 29 and May 3rd - 5th. People commonly take off the gap days (which vary by year). Often companies give the gap days as company holidays. In such cases, the company may completely shutdown for the week.
Meaning of the holidaysMany Japanese people can't name the holidays of Golden Week. The Japanese government often redefines national holidays — leaving people confused. Currently, the GW holidays are defined as follows:
April 29 ~ Showa Day
The birthday of the former Emperor. Most people don't celebrate this but are happy it's a day off.
May 3rd ~ Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi)
On May 3rd, 1947 Japan's new post war constitution was put into effect.
May 4 ~ Greenery Day (Midori no hi)
A vaguely defined holiday dedicated to nature.
May 5 ~ Children's Day (Kodomo no hi)
This holiday is widely celebrated in Japan. For more than 1000 years, this day has been celebrated as the Boy's Festival (Tango no Sekku). It's a day for honor boys and hope for their health and future success. Girl's day is celebrated on March 3rd.
The government renamed the day to "Children's Day" because they felt bad that May 3rd (Boy's Day) is a national holiday but March 3rd (Girl's Day) isn't. People still celebrate May 3rd as Boy's Day.
International TravelTour package prices increase by a factor of 3 ~ 10 times (as compared with off season prices).
Popular short-haul destinations such as Guam, Saipan and Hawaii are most affected by the price increases. Long-haul destinations such as South America aren't as affected.
The Hawaiian tourist industry is fond of golden week. Oahu hotel prices go up dramatically during this period. Virtually all the tourists to Hawaii are Japanese this week. Destinations such as Guam, Saipan, Korea and France also notice the influx of tourists.
Domestic TravelMost years, golden week weather is fantastic. It's safely after winter and safely before Japan's rainy season.
Prices for domestic hotels and ryokan increase by a factor of 3x ~ 5x . It's important to book early — most destinations are booked up months in advance.
It's common for people to take day trips by train or car. Golden week is infamous for it's massive traffic jams. Bullet trains and express train seats book up quickly. It's often standing room only with trains running at up to 300% of seating capacity.
Staying HomeMany Japanese avoid the traffic jams and high prices by staying around town. Golden week is the best week of the year for the Japanese movie industry. Japanese movie studios release their blockbusters for GW.
Parks, shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, amusement parks, temples and other attractions are all busier than usual.
Many choose to avoid the crowds altogether and stick close to home. It's a good time to play with the kids or catch up on your reading.