Golden Week is a period of time in Japan where four national holidays coincide in a seven day period. Due to all the holidays being so close together, most offices will shut down this period, or if they don't, many employees will take the time off anyway. This makes golden week one of Japan's three busiest holiday seasons, besides Obon week and the New Year.
As you can expect from this, many people will be traveling at the same time, so trains, airports and tourist destinations will be crowded, or in some cases, more crowded that usual during this period. Also a lot of accommodation is booked out well in advance so you need to plan far in advance if you want to travel during this time.
This is the birthday of the Showa Emperor, Hirohito. The purpose of this day is to encourage public reflection of the turbulent events of the 63 years of his reign.
Originally celebrated as the Emperor's Birthday while he was alive, and then as Greenery Day after his death in 1989, the holiday was finally renamed to Showa Day in 2006. According to the main opposition party at the time, The Democratic Party Of Japan, who were originally against the bill for many years, the purpose of the day is to encourage reflection on the period of Hirohito's reign, rather than glorify the man himself. Events during the Showa period include the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, two attempted coups of May 15 1932 and February 26 1936, World War II and the post-war occupation by Allied forces.
May 3rd has been a national holiday since the current Japanese constitution came into effect at the end of World War II in 1947. This day is used to reflect on democracy and Japanese government.
Greenery Day is, as its name suggests, is a day dedicated to the environment and nature. As you would have read above, after the emperor's death in 1989, the Emperor's Birthday national holiday was changed to Greenery Day, due to his love of plants. Thus in 2007 when April 29 became Showa Day, Greenery Day was moved May 4.
Previously May 4 had still been a public holiday, as Japanese law makes any day that falls between two existing national holidays a national holidays itself.
The fifth day of the fifth month is set aside to respect children's personalities and celebrate their happiness. Originally known as Boy's day, with Girls Day held on March 3, this day was changed in 1948 to celebrate the happiness of all children.
Before this day, families raised carp-shaped streamers to represent the father (black/blue), mother (red) and one for each boy. There is a Chinese legend of carp that manage to swim to a waterfall known as Dragon's Gate, many of them try to jump up the waterfall, but only the few that make it are transformed into dragons. Thus the carp represent the children growing into adults and persevering in the face of adversity.Previous: Final Fantasy: World Wide Words Released In Japan