Golden Week is undoubtedly the busiest season for domestic travel in Japan. Thanks to a series of four national holidays in close succession (Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day), the period at the end of April and the beginning of May is -for many Japanese- the only time of the year to indulge in a longer period away from work.
This year’s Golden Week proved to be particularly busy in Japan. The weak yen and extortionate airfares discouraged the Japanese from traveling abroad. On the other hand, the long-awaited final relaxation of Covid measures and the downgrade of the virus to the same level as influenza gave an impulse to domestic travel.
The data of the past days shows an increment of up to +95% of crowds in the major cities compared to 2022. Hotels and other hospitality outlets have jumped to the occasion and made the most of the high demand by increasing rates, enjoying full occupancy, and recovering the lost revenue of the pandemic years. However, this spike in travel has also raised many an eyebrow in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Japan is already struggling to contain a seemingly endless wave of post-pandemic travel in the main touristic draws, both from abroad and domestically. Stations and train platforms were brimming with people, sometimes scaringly and dangerously packed. Popular areas such as Higashiyama or Arashiyama in Kyoto were besieged by the crowds, making it almost impossible to walk around, let alone find places to eat lunch or rest for a coffee. Public transport infrastructure is insufficient to move such high volumes of people; even the proverbially excellent high-speed rail network was at full capacity, with sold-out trains and many people forced to look for alternative ways of travel.
Many bloggers, influencers and media outlets have made an effort throughout the years, consistently highlighting the inconveniences of the Golden Week; they have been telling their audiences that travel to Japan during this period should be avoided at any cost, for their own sake. Foreign tourists have a choice not to travel during this season. And yet, every year, we see non-Japanese travellers make the same mistake and embark on a trip that will prove to be a rather stressful experience.
Miki Travel wants to add their voice to the choir and discourage all their clients from planning departures for this time of the year.
The trend Miki Travel is observing from their privileged standpoint shows that -thanks to the cheap yen, and despite the substantial rate increases that have been announced- demand for Japan will be unwavering for the months to come.
The most popular destinations (Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Mount Fuji, Hiroshima, Kanazawa) will be inevitably busy, and even more so during the peak seasons: cherry blossom, Golden Week, Obon, foliage season, and New Year.
If travel agents want their customers to enjoy a pleasant travel experience, they should refrain from planning tours around those seasons as much as possible; if clients are set to travel in those high-demand periods or cannot avoid those dates, Miki Travel recommends directing them to less-trodden but equally beautiful areas of Japan, which do not suffer from overcrowding and provide an enjoyable (perhaps even better) travel experience.
Here are a few suggestions for less-crowded destinations in Japan:
Shikoku is a beautiful island with a rich history and culture. It is home to many stunning temples and shrines, as well as stunning natural scenery.
Tohoku is a region in the north of Japan that is known for its beautiful mountains, forests, and coastline. It is also home to many traditional villages and towns.
Ryukyu Islands are a group of islands located in the south of Japan. They are known for their beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and tropical climate.
Ryukyu Islands, Japan
Miki Travel is at your disposal to share their knowledge with you and help you plan wisely so your clients can enjoy a pleasant trip to Japan.
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Author: Deb Davad