Planning for Golden Week

Planning for Golden WeekGolden week, from the end of April to the beginning of May, is one of the biggest travel times of the year for Japanese people. It’s called Golden Week because several national holidays line up during this period and, together with a weekend on both side, means many people can take the entire week off, if not longer.

The dates for 2008 are: April 29 Showa Day, May 3 Constitution Day, May 4 Greenery Day, May 5 Children’s Day, May 6 (Greenery Day observed).

If you happen to be traveling in Japan at this time, however, be warned! Trains, planes and busses are crowded and sometimes it is impossible to get seat reservations on any kind of transport. One good thing to remember is that the heaviest travel days are the first day of the holiday, when everyone is leaving on vacation, and the last holiday when everyone is returning home. If you’re trying to book a flight, for example, try one of the in-between days rather than the first day or last day (or two) of the holiday.

Following are some of the best online tools for planning your trip to Japan during Golden Week or any other time.

Hyperdia Timetable – Want to know exactly what trains to take, at what time, the exact price and the distance in hours and kilometers? This web site has all the plane and train routes around Japan. Just type in your starting point and your destination and let the web site do the rest. Hyperdia is up-to-date and accurate. Make a printout of your search and you’ll have at least 5 possible routes to compare by time, price and convenience. To access the site, go to www.hyperdia.com then click on “English” in the upper left hand corner box. Then type in your starting point and destination. Wallah!

Time and date.com – This is one of my favorite sites that is good not just for Japan, but any country in the world. Time and date.com gives you the current time in Japan as well as helpful planning tools such as a calendar showing all of the Japanese holidays. It also has fun tools such as a customizable count-down till your trip date, sun and moon calendars, a meeting planner and calendars for any date in the future.

Remember, the key to traveling successfully during Golden Week is to make your reservations for transport and hotels early.

Amy Chavez is a columnist for The Japan Times. Visit her website at http://www.moooobar.com