Translated by Lester Somera
What Is The Autumn "Silver Week" Holiday In Japan?
Written by Sawada Tomomi
When you travel in Japan during holiday periods like Silver Week, shops will be closed and public transportation will be packed, so be mindful of these points.
When is Silver Week?
Silver Week is a string of consecutive holidays which may occur in autumn depending on that year’s alignment of national holidays. During Silver Week, public transportation is very crowded, which can have an effect on your trip. This article will talk about the schedule of Silver Week, how to avoid the rush, and some places to enjoy autumn travels. For information about Golden Week, which occurs in the spring, please read this article.
Silver Week doesn’t necessarily happen every year. There are two national holidays in September, and if they line up correctly, it results in Silver Week. Those two national holidays are “Respect For The Aged Day,” which happens on the 3rd Monday of the month, and “Autumnal Equinox Day,” (*1) which occurs around September 23rd.
Since normal weekdays which are sandwiched between national holidays become citizens’ holidays, any weekday that falls between Respect For The Aged Day and Autumnal Equinox Day becomes a holiday. For example, if Respect For The Aged Day is on Monday, and Autumnal Equinox Day is on Wednesday, the Tuesday in-between becomes a citizens’ holiday. This results in a Silver Week five-day holiday, including Saturday and Sunday.
The most recent Silver Week was in 2015, but it had actually been six years since the last time it properly occurred. The next Silver Week will happen a decade from now, in 2026. After that, the next Silver Weeks will happen in 2032 and 2037.
*1: The date of Autumnal Equinox Day, when the daytime and nighttime are equal in length, is decided by the National Astronomical Observatory. It is a day to celebrate the fall harvest, and also serves as a day to venerate ancestors.
Important Points About Silver Week
Silver Week is thought of as a time for people who live in Japan to go back to their hometowns or go traveling. Roads, trains, airports and sightseeing areas will be unusually busy, so you’ll need to plan cautiously when making your itinerary.
No matter what form of transportation you use during Silver Week, you’re bound to encounter crowds. If you get trapped in a traffic jam while taking a car or bus, you run the risk of losing a day of travel time. It’s more likely that you will be able to stick to your schedule by taking trains, but it’s very possible that you’ll tire yourself out just commuting, as the trains will be packed and you’ll almost definitely have to stand. If you want to save time and avoid the Silver Week crush, pay for a reserved seat on a train or go by plane. Having said that, it’s a popular time for travel, which means that prices will be inflated, so make reservations early.
Since many people will be leaving Tokyo for their hometowns, metropolitan routes headed for the countryside will be crowded for the first half of Silver Week, and countryside routes bound for cities will be crowded for the latter half. Be aware of this pattern and you might be able to avoid some traffic when you’re traveling.
In addition, there is data which states that traffic on the final day of Silver Week and other such long holidays is comparatively less congested. Perhaps there are a lot of people who want to relax on their last vacation day, or have to get ready for the following day of work.
The Best Destinations During Silver Week
The Earliest Autumn Foliage in Japan (Mt. Daisetsu, Hokkaido)
The end of September, during Silver Week, is a little early for the autumn foliage to be out. However, you can enjoy the wonderful colors in the north, where temperatures drop quickly on higher ground. Mt. Daisetsu is said to have the earliest autumn foliage in the country, and it can be seen from mid-September until early October. Take the ropeway halfway up, then a seven-minute lift ride will get you to the top. If you’re confident in your level of stamina or physical fitness, you can also walk to the summit to enjoy the amazing view.
Enjoy the Season Along With An Onsen Bath (Shin-Hotaka, Gifu)
The Shin-Hotaka Ropeway is famed as a place where visitors can look down at the autumn foliage that shrouds the overlapping mountains. We recommend taking a dip in the open air bath at the waystation on the ropeway, so you can relax and gaze out at the mountains.
A round trip fare for the ropeway (2900 yen), a ticket for food and drink (2900 yen) and a pass to the open air bath (600 yen) can all be yours if you buy a “Refreshing Pack” for 3900 yen, which is quite a bargain.
One of Edo’s Three Great Festivals: Nezu Jinja Reitaisai (Tokyo)
The Nezu Jinja Reitaisai is a historic festival at Nezu Shrine that sees 30,000 attendees a year. At the festival, you can see traditional "mai" dances, as well as mikoshi (portable decorated shrines which are carried around). Street stalls line the festival’s spacious grounds, and you can really enjoy the bustling atmosphere around you.
The time of Silver Week has wonderful weather and food, and it’s the perfect season for traveling. Take the unique travel situations of consecutive holiday periods into account when you plan your trip, in order to make the best of your time in Japan.