It’s nearly time for Japan’s Golden Week, a semi-accidental clustering of holidays that usually fall near each other, which the Japanese government has latched onto as a great way to stimulate the economy, since people are theoretically spending more money when doing leisure activities with family than while at work. The holidays are Showa Day on April 29, the birthday of the old Emperor; Constitution Day on May 3, commemorating Japan’s postwar constitution; Green Day on May 4, a day to celebrate nature; and Children’s Day on May 5. While Golden Week is a nice break from the daily grind, it’s all but useless as a holiday, since the other 126,999,999 Japanese in the country also have the week off, and trying to drive anywhere is a fool’s errand. This year will be especially insane thanks to a new economic stimulus plan enacted by the Japanese government which lets people drive anywhere on Japan’s highways for a flat rate of $10, a big reduction from the $25 it used to take me to drive 100 km into Tokyo, or the cool $130 I’d have to part with to take a trip to, say, Osaka. The only thing worse than leaving the Tokyo area during Golden Week is coming back, and the “return rush” traffic jam that happens the day before the holidays are over is not something I want to contemplate.
The rush to return to Tokyo after Golden Week is terrible to even think about.