Golden Week is a cluster of Japanese holidays occurring from the end of April until early May that gives both workers and students more or less one week of freedom from the stressors of everyday life. During Golden Week, many people try to travel both within and outside the country and, with Emperor Akihito’s abdication of the throne and the welcoming of the Reiwa era, Japan was especially crowded and hectic.
Since there were more people coming into and out of the country during this time, the shinkansen or “bullet train,” planes, as well as hotels and other accommodations, (especially onsens) were full. Initially, I had wanted to take a trip south and go hit Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka but, after looking at the prices and availability, I knew that it just wouldn’t work out, so those plans are postponed for the time being. To save my wallet a bit, I decided to just do some small day trips around the Tokyo area in the hopes that they would be less crowded than other areas. They weren’t — but I still had a lot of fun.
I started off my Golden Week with a trip to hike up Mount Takao in Hachiōji, Tokyo with a group of friends from the dorm. The train ride there took around 90 minutes, and I had to stand the whole time because there were no available seats. When we got there, there was a lot of people. Everywhere I looked there were groups of people either hiking up the trails or waiting for the cable car to take them to the top. There are multiple trails to choose from to get to the top, and we ultimately chose Trail 6, the Biwa Waterfall trail, which was also one of the harder routes to take. For the most part, the trail was OK. It was rigorous, but I wasn’t dying per se, that is until the rocks and stairs.
Most of Trail 6 had a visible trail until you got a little further than halfway to the top, where the path gradually gets narrower and narrower, steeper and steeper, and less and less visible. There was one part of the trail that was purely stepping stones. Normally this would not faze me, but these stones were covered in mud and were SO slippery, so it was really hard to maneuver across. Once cleared though I was able to regain my breath a little just in time for the stairs. Oh, lovely stairs from hell. There were so many stairs I was mad shook, but that’s to be expected … because it’s a mountain. For whatever reason though I didn’t think the path would be so steep, and I wasn’t expecting the never-ending segment of stairs at the very end of the trail. I won’t sugarcoat it, I was dying at the stairs. I had to take a little break and catch my breath because there were just so many.
All those burned calories were well worth it though. The views and scenery of Mount Takao both on the trail and at the top were mesmerizing, and I would gladly do it again. It took us roughly 90 minutes to get to the top of the mountain. We had a little picnic and took some photos of Mount Fuji from atop Mount Takao before descending.
We took a different trail on the way down and that, too, was incredibly difficult because the path wasn’t even visible anymore and was super steep. If it weren’t for the stairs I would say the descent was harder than going up. We got a little lost along the way but that led us to this really beautiful Japanese garden on the way back to the station.
I also made a quick trip to Yokohama during the Golden Week and, just like Takaosan, Yokohama was very crowded. I walked around Yokohama for a little bit and saw some flower parks and street performers along the way. I also stopped at the Osanbashi international passenger terminal where foreign cruise lines dock for international cruises. The views of the ocean were beautiful, and the architecture of the pier was really cool too. I then made a pit stop at the Chinatown in Yokohama and got dim sum for lunch with some friends. The food was a bit expensive, but it was so delicious and filling. After lunch, we walked around Chinatown for a while and did some shopping and, even though I was immensely full, the smell coming from the food stalls all around me tempted me to get one more snack while I was there. Everywhere you looked, you would see some sort of food stall. and they smelled so good. There were more things we could have done in Yokohama, but it was so crowded and we were all tired so we headed back for the day. I am definitely going to go back soon.
The last main mini trip I made during the holiday — aside from side trips to Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, etc. — was going to the Tsutsuji Matsuri (Azalea Festival) at Nezu shrine in Bunkyo, Tokyo. Unlike the other two trips, the shrine was not too overcrowded. You were allowed to enter the area and see the flowers for 200 yen. The azalea flowers were so beautiful and vibrant; it was truly breathtaking to see in person. All around there were mounds and mounds of multicolored flowers. There was also a portion of the shrine with a bunch of red torii gates that you could walk under. It was truly an amazing experience and the whole place was so lively and fun.
Golden Week is sadly over, and I am back to attending classes each day (*cries*) but I am super-pumped to keep on traveling around Japan and documenting my adventures.
Teri Handa is a second-year speech, language and hearing sciences major who is studying in Tokyo for the spring semester. She has never traveled out of the country before and is excited to share her journey.