Where to Go in Japan During the Golden Week

Where to Go in Japan During the Golden Week

On 29 April, the Japanese will kickstart the Golden Week, which is a cluster of national holidays and also a peak travel season.

In Japan, there is a long holiday nicknamed “Golden Week”. During this week, there are many national holidays that are close together. This year, Golden Week will be from 29 April to 6 May 2018. Since it is such a great opportunity for a long vacation, the majority of those living in Japan take the same days off from work. This results in a lot of local traffic, especially on highways.

While travelling outside of Japan is a great option, the airports are crowded and the flights are a bit more expensive than normal. Many Japanese choose to travel within Japan, competing with tourists for accommodations and transportation. If you’re travelling around Japan during this period, planning in advance is crucial. I recommended booking your bullet train or other express trains in advance as they tend to get full quickly.

Whether you’re a local or tourist, here are some suggestions and itineraries for travelling within Japan during Golden Week!

Take overnight buses

Trying to save money and travel time during the Golden Week? When you are on a budget and can’t travel on bullet trains, buses are the best alternative. However, you don’t want to spend eight hours of your day only to arrive at your destination at night. Solution? Take an overnight bus! You can save on accommodation costs and travel while sleeping. How efficient and practical! (But of course, not the most comfortable.)

Image credit: Odakyu Bus

All you need to do is map out the areas you want to visit and book overnight buses. You may be worried that you might get stinky, but have no fear, Japan has plenty of bathhouses where you can clean yourself up so you don’t become that backpacker that no one wants to sit next to on the bus. Also, if you are feeling sleepy during the day, you can always take a quick nap at internet/manga cafes!

If you are currently based in Tokyo, here is a sample itinerary of an overnight bus plan for your Golden Week adventure.

27 April (Evening): Depart Tokyo and head to Tottori Station

  • Tottori Sand Dunes
  • Jinpukaku
  • Tottori Castle Ruins

Tottori Sand Dunes | Image credit: brian_ytsu

28 April (Evening): Depart Tottori and head to Beppu

  • Beppu Onsen
  • Kijima Kogen Park (amusement park)
  • Hells of Beppu (hot springs)
  • Kinrin Lake

Beppu Onsen | Image credit: Elvin

29 April (Evening): Depart Beppu and head to Hiroshima

  • Hiroshima Castle
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
  • Itsukushima (The Great Torii)

Itsukushima

30 April (Evening): Depart Hiroshima and head to Osaka

  • Explore Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe. Stay for 1 night.
  • Kyoto: Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama
  • Osaka: Osaka Castle, Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi, Universal Studios Japan
  • Kobe: Kobe Port Tower, Arima Onsen

Osaka Castle

2 May (Evening): Depart Osaka and head to Kanazawa

  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Myoryu-ji
  • Asanogawa Bridge
  • Kanazawa Castle
  • Kenroku Garden
  • Nagamachi Samurai District

Kenroku Garden | Image credit: Jiashiang

3 May (Evening): Depart Kanazawa and head to Aomori

  • Jomon Site
  • Aomori Museum of Art
  • Furukawa Fish Market
  • Nebuta Warasse
  • Hakkoda-maru Ship

Aomori Museum of Art | Image credit: Yuichi Shiraishi

4 May (Evening): Depart Aomori and head to Tokyo

5-6 May: Recovery days

Take scenic trains

Want to take it slow during the Golden Week and enjoy scenic views? If you love riding trains and don’t mind spending hours of your day on one, perhaps this option is for you. Note that it will be essential to map out your routes and reserve accommodations at your various destinations so you are not left stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Here are some local train lines that are popular in Japan:

1. Gono Line (Aomori/Akita Prefecture)

Image credit: Matome.naver.jp

The Gono Line is a 147.2-kilometre-long train line that stretches along the coast from Kawabe Station (Aomori Prefecture) to Higashinoshiro Station (Akita Prefecture), with 43 stations in-between. This line is well known for offering various tourist activities at many of the train stops. Sometimes, there are fun activities on the scenic train too, such as stand-up comedy and live music. Make sure to check the dates of when these events are occurring on the Gono Line!

2. Oigawa Railway (Shizuoka Prefecture)

The Oigawa Railway is a train company in Shizuoka Prefecture that has various train types to adventure in. Choose from the steam locomotive, Thomas train, local train or the Abt System train.

Image credit: Oigawa Railway

The steam locomotive runs from Kanaya Station to Senzu Station, where you can enjoy the beautiful sceneries along the Oi River in a retro style train.

Image credit: Oigawa Railway

For families with children, the Thomas the Tank Engine train will provide an exciting and memorable journey!

Image credit: Oigawa Railway

The Abt System Railway is named after Carl Roman Abt, a Swiss mechanical engineer who created the railway system used to access steep mountains for construction purposes. Originally, it was not intended for locals. However, it is now a popular tourist attraction that slowly runs up the mountain from Senzu Station to Ikawa Station.

Image credit: Oigawa Railway

Old trains in Japan that can longer compete with the faster, newer trains have a second chance through Oigawa Railway. Enjoy a scenic train ride on these local trains along the Oi River.

3. Nagaragawa Railway (Gifu Prefecture)

Image credit: Excite Blog

The Nagaragawa Railway was established in 1986 and is known for the cute red train that runs along the Nagara River. The scenic train ride is 72 kilometres long and it takes about two hours to go from Mino-ota Station to Hokuno Station. Along the journey, you will cross the river seven times, allowing you to take beautiful shots of the river and mountains.

Bike around

If you are the active type and want to work a sweat during the holidays, how about biking around the roads of Japan? There are various bike trails you can take which will leave your quads sore for a few days after the journey. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Seto Inland Sea (Ehime to Hiroshima Prefecture)

Image credit: Cyclowired

If you have to select one, I would definitely recommend the famous Seto Inland Sea Cycling Road. The cycling road is 70 kilometres long from Imabari (Ehime Prefecture) to Onomochi (Hiroshima Prefecture) and you are able to ride on seven different bridges, all with breathtaking views! If 70 kilometres is a long bike journey for you, try taking it slow and splitting the ride into a few days to enjoy what the local small towns have to offer.

2. Awaji Island (Hyogo Prefecture)

Image credit: Lety

Awaji Island is a small island in Hyogo Prefecture that has various bike trails that you can choose from. The Awaji Road Bike Supporters has several recommendations for trails depending on your experience. There are shorter trails that are 23 kilometres long but if you are looking for more of a challenge, try their 171-kilometre trail that takes around 11.5 hours to complete.

3. Nasu Kogen (Tochigi Prefecture)

Image credit: Nasu Kogen Long Ride

Nasu Kogen is famous for the annual “Nasu Kogen Long Ride” which is a cycling event that encourages living a healthy lifestyle through biking while also publicizing the wonderful nature trails of Nasu Kogen (Nasu Highland). This year’s cycling tournament will be held on 8 July but you can take a look at the bike trails for the event to do during the Golden Week. There are easier bike trails geared towards families with children that are 35 kilometres long as well as advanced trails that are 107 kilometres long with an elevation difference of 1,253 metres.

There you have it! These are just a few suggestions to enjoy the beauties that Japan has to offer. The weather in Japan has been getting warmer the past few weeks so I hope you are able to enjoy Golden Week by travelling somewhere new and having fun.

About Author

Ray Brooks
Ray Brooks

Ray is a half-Japanese/half-American whose energeticness is swayed by sunshine, beaches and yummy food. During her free time, she is often out and about – whether it is staying fit, travelling or attending events, she spends time outside to enjoy life. Her biggest hobbies are finding different areas to travel to and trying out new restaurants to find food that is absolutely scrumptious.

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