30 useful tips for travel in Japan

Peak Travel Times in Japan
There are three main vacation times during the year in Japan: New Year, Golden Week in May, and Obon in August. During long weekends and traditional events it is also busier than usual. Expect airports, highways, long distance buses, Shinkansen, and express trains to be crowded and make reservations for travel and accommodation in advance.

New Year- Many Japanese have some time off work in late December and early January and travel to see their families. Famous shrines and temples attract big crowds for “hatsumode” festivities (first shrine visit) during the first three days of the year.

Golden Week - April 29 and May 3, 4, and 5 are national holidays. This time is called Golden Week and is a peak season for both domestic and international travel.

Obon - The main Obon time is August 13-16 and August 11 is a national holiday. Some Japanese companies close for a few days in mid-August, and Japan becomes quite crowded with people traveling.

Long weekends - Each year has several “renkyu” (long weekends). When a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday instead. Some holidays where also moved and now take place on a Monday every year.
National holidays in Japan
 January 1: New Year
 2nd Monday of January: Coming of Age Day
 February 11: National Foundation Day
 March 20 or 21: Spring Equinox Day
 April 29: Showa Day
 May 3: Constitution Day
 May 4: Greenery Day
 May 5: Children’s Day
 3rd Monday of July: Marine Day
 August 11: Mountain Day
 3rd Monday of September: Respect for the Elderly Day
 September 22 or 23: Autumn Equinox
 2nd Monday of October: Sports Day
 November 3: Culture Day
 November 23: Labor Thanksgiving Day
 December 23: Emperor’s Birthday
Seasonal travel
A special cherry blossom forecast announces the start of the sakura season in the different regions. In Kyoto and Tokyo, sakura usually bloom in late March to early April. Further north in Tohoku and Hokkaido, it begins in later April.
Places famous for “koyo” (colored autumn leaves) attract many visitors. In Hokkaido koyo usually starts in September, in Tokyo and Kyoto you can see it in November.
Most ski and snowboarding resorts open December to March and some locations open until early May.
Local events - Cities and regions with big traditional festivals will be very crowded during those days. Check local event calendars when you plan your trip, and it is also recommended you make hotel reservations well in advance.