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I am planning a vacation to Japan, and currently have two possible plans. In plan A I leave well before Golden week (on 4/24). In plan B I leave during the first weekend of golden week (4/28, on Saturday night).

In terms of itinerary, I prefer plan B, but I'm wondering if being in Tokyo during the first Friday and Saturday of the nationwide vacation week is going to be a horror show. Will the city be unenjoyable for those days? Should I expect that the airport on Saturday night will be a complete mess, and my flight home will be packed?

The question boils down to this: During the Friday and Saturday before Golden Week, will Tokyo be so crazy that I should reschedule my vacation around it, or is it still bearable, if more crowded than usual?

There's no empirically right answer to this obviously; I just want to hear your opinion and your experiences.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

No, Tokyo is not a disaster area during golden week. However, flights out of Tokyo may well be more expensive, crowded, or already sold out on the first weekend, and queues may be longer. Another factor is that on the national holidays, some (not all) stores will be closed down, as will be banks (and that includes ATMs in most cases). Possibly also some museums or other attractions (Tsukiji fish market is closed, I think). But most tourism-related things will be open, since golden week is also used by many Japanese people to visit Tokyo as tourists.

All in all, the main reason not to choose plan B is the flight being unavailable or more expensive. If that's not a problem, go for it.

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My experience with public holidays in Japan is that traveling via the roads is a disaster. If you are not driving or taking a bus it should be busy but tolerable, else expect to be moving at a few kilometers an hour-even on the more popular country side roads outside of Tokyo. Getting a car park is also near impossible.

Accommodation is also very difficult to find if you haven't booked a reasonable period in advance.

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While driving is a lot worse, hitchhiking becomes a lot easier from SAs and PAs (-: –  hippietrail Jan 8 '12 at 9:44
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@hippietrail: SAs? PAs? –  Peter Hahndorf Jan 8 '12 at 9:49
    
@PeterHahndorf: SA = Service Area, PA = Parking Area. The rest areas along Japan's expressways. (And in country areas there are 道の駅 [michi no eki, roadside stations]). –  hippietrail Jan 8 '12 at 10:03
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