Japanese Holidays & Cycling in Japan

Japanese Holidays & Cycling in Japan

Table Of Contents

When planning your holiday, especially to another country, it is always a good idea to consider their holiday periods. This is because, just as you are planning your trip now to Japan, so to do Japanese people plan their trips around their time off.

When Are Japanese People on Holiday?

In short, Japan like most countries, has 5 day work weeks with Saturdays & Sundays off. Beyond this, Japan has a very different work & school schedule that begins and ends on the first of April. This is the new year for both schools and business calendars, and coincides with the coming of spring.

Further, Japanese schools do not follow the long summer break schedule that most western nations do, and instead has many shorter breaks and 3 day weekends.

Here is a quick list of holidays that happen each year in Japan to watch out for. Bolded Holidays are the big ones.

National Holiday2023 Date
New Year’s DayJanuary 1 (Observed on January 2)
Coming of Age DayJanuary 9 (Second Monday in January)
National Foundation DayFebruary 11
Emperor’s BirthdayFebruary 23
Vernal Equinox DayMarch 21
Golden WeekShōwa Day through Children’s Day
Shōwa DayApril 29
Constitution Memorial DayMay 3
Greenery DayMay 4
Children’s DayMay 5
Marine DayJuly 17 (Third Monday in July)
Mountain DayAugust 11
Bon Holiday PeriodAugust 13-16 (centered each year around August 15)
Respect for the Aged DaySeptember 18 (Third Monday in September)
Autumnal Equinox DaySeptember 23
Sports DayOctober 9 (Second Monday in October)
Culture DayNovember 3
Labor Thanksgiving DayNovember 23

Is It a Problem to Travel to Japan on Japanese Holidays?

In short, no it is not at all. It can be safely assumed that prices will be higher on those days, and that things will be moderately to significantly more crowded, but that’s holidays right?

Kiryu Cycling
There’s something magical about the golden rice fields & red higanbana flowers of early autumn.

The Big 4 and a Half Holiday Periods in Japan

1. New Years (Last Days of December-First Days of January)

Like much of the world this period is one to travel home and visit relatives. A large percentage of Tokyo and other metro cities in Japan will go back to their hometowns/relatives homes in the countryside during this time. This means trains, hotels, and restaurants are often fully booked, so early planning is advised for this time of year.

Touristy areas that are ski/snowboard/snow centric also tend to be fully booked this time of year. But, if you are planning cycling/hiking activities it should not be too bad.

2. Spring Time New Years (Mid-March-First Week of April)

This time of year is when everyone in Japan will be traveling to see their kids/grandkids/relatives/etc graduate from schools. While many people travel for this time of year, it is not nearly the total migration of New Years period.

Touristy areas become crowded with recent high school graduates usually for the last few weeks of March as they tend to graduate a few weeks before the lower schools.

3. Golden Week (Last Days of April-First Week of May)

The golden star child of Japanese holidays, this period from roughly the last few days of April through the first week of May each year is by far the most common time for Japanese to travel for tourism. Because this time of year is often spectacular weather, full flowers in bloom, and one of the longest possible holiday periods, you can expect maximum congestion at tourist areas. Further, hotels and just prices in general can be assumed to be 1.5-2x usual prices nearly everywhere.

In short, if you are planning to come to Japan during Golden Week, plan well in advance, be ready for higher prices, and for busy sites and streets.

4. Bon Holiday (Mid-August)

The Bon or Obon period is a set of days centered around mid-August each year where many of the biggest festivals are held across Japan. August is sometimes referred to as “Festival Season” as a large percentage of Japan’s festivals will occur during the month.

Beyond the roughly one week that most Japanese workers will take off, the students in school will receive around one full month of school off. Because of this, it is common to see lots of families on vacation this time of year. Most try to “beat the heat” as the metro areas get swelteringly hot and humid, opting to visit cooler mountainous & coastal areas if possible.

5. Silver Week (A Rarity Every 5 Years)

Silver Week is a rarity every 5 years or so where Respect for the Aged Day (3rd Mon of Sept) and the Autumn Equinox align in such a way with the weekend to create a 2-3 day work week. This often causes people to try to take the full week off, and create the illusive “Silver Week Holiday.

This can rival Golden Week when it occurs, so be mindful of this rare Pokemon’s multi year cycle.

So When Is The Best Time To Visit Japan for Cycling?

A great logical follow up question. In short, any time that is not during the big holiday periods!

A longer answer will require knowing if you want to climb the high mountains, cruise the coasts, see the sakura, or rustle through the fall leaves in Autumn. A great place to start is here in my article on the Four Seasons of Cycling in Japan.

Beyond this, you can find a bunch more about cycling in Japan on the blog, or check out our trips we run each year if you are interested in riding with us in Japan!

Until Next Time! Mata Ne~

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