Japan is a popular travel destination for many people all over the world at any given season. But if you want an unforgettable experience, it is best to visit during springtime, especially in May. Delight in the beautiful cherry blossoms, enjoy a hike in Mount Fuji, or take a cruise in Lake Ashi—the possibilities are endless.
However, there’s a catch. If your most awaited vacation in Japan falls on Golden Week (April 27 to May 6), then you’re in for a surprise. This ten-day period is designated by the Japanese government as public holidays to encourage their hardworking people to take a rest. The long, extended holiday means everyone is travelling to visit family and friends. Flights and hotels can become expensive, and navigating in train stations can be most challenging with a throng of crowds.
If it’s your first time to go to Japan, exploring the country during Golden Week can be hard but not impossible. You can still have the time of your life if you come prepared. Here are some things you should know for a stress-free trip.
The Art of Planning Ahead
Many people who travel tend to book their flights and accommodations in advance. It is even more imperative if you go to Japan during Golden Week.
As soon as you arrive, it is also advisable to book your train reservations. Make sure to choose flexible travel time and avoid the crowd. The best time to ride the famous bullet trains is during early morning. Create your itinerary, including where you will go and where you will eat. Some dining places might be filled with people, so if you want to try a certain restaurant, consider reserving a spot ahead of time.
The Places You Should Avoid
It is also important to avoid places that are more likely to be visited by holidaying locals like amusement parks. Cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are the most popular, so steering away from them is a good idea, at least during Golden Week. Consider exploring places and pursuing activities within walking distance of your accommodation to avoid the crazy state of highways and public transportation.
You may try to head for the deep countryside instead, where small towns and villages offer their own charm, with picturesque valleys and spectacular mountain views. Festivals are also almost everywhere, so wherever you are staying, you can expect to join in exciting events, from historical parades to cultural celebrations.
Make Sure You Have Enough Cash
Japan is an advanced country, but it is still very common to find restaurants and shops that don’t accept credit or debit cards. During Golden Week, it can be hard to go around looking for an ATM machine. Some of them don’t even accept foreign debit cards, so it can be tricky to run out of cash. To avoid this dilemma, make sure to have enough cash in hand to cover your expenses and have extra for emergency.
Arm Yourself with Pocket Wi-Fi or Mobile Data
Hotels, restaurants, and cafés probably have free Wi-Fi, but going outside is another matter. There is a high chance that you will need to access the internet in order to translate a question or ask for directions. The most convenient way to do this is to prepare pocket Wi-Fi or mobile data that you can easily access once the need arises.
There are data-only SIM cards that you can buy in Japan or online that you can collect upon arrival in the airport. There are also available mobile phones and pocket Wi-Fi units for rent.
Shopping for Souvenirs and Mementos
Of course, you can’t leave Japan without buying something to remember your trip by and give as a gift for family and friends who have yet to experience it themselves. Origami accessories like earrings, necklaces, or hair clips can make good souvenirs. Lucky charms, known as omamori, can be a meaningful gift for your loved ones. They can be found mostly in shrines, temples, and shopping arcades throughout the country.
But for those who love food, there is nothing better than letting them experience the taste of the country through Japanese candy. Japan is known for candy and snacks with a wide range of flavors unique to the country, from yummy gummies, gum, and matcha to chips, chocolate, and biscuits. They are also the easiest to buy, with the option to order online and have them delivered for free worldwide.
If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your first visit to Japan with minimal stress and maximum experience, even in the middle of Golden Week. In the end, what will matter most is how much enjoyment you get out of your trip, so make sure to grab the opportunity to experience the country in every way, from food to culture and more.