Many readers have asked me about busy period to travel. I would like to show you the calendar of the peak period in 2016 season. And also I would like to give you some tips when you travel in the peas season.
Don’t travel same direction as local tourist
Before I show you the calendar, I would like to tell you how Japanese tourist move in the peak period. Please keep these in your mind when you build your plan.
1. Trains from major cities are busy in the beginning of the peak period.
2. Trains to major cities are busy at the end of the peak period.
Major cities, like Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka have huge population. Huge number of travelers get out of the cities. So you have to avoid to leave cities in the beginning of the peak period. On the other hand, if you travel opposite way, train is not crowded.
The following movie is only 40 seconds. It is Japanese local news and shows you how busy Tokyo station was on December 29, 2015.
If you stay in the cities in peak period, it is not much different from regular weekend. Of course attractions are busy. I do not recommend you to visit Disneyland and Universal Studio Japan in the peak period. You have to spend a couple of hours to take just one ride. You will not be satisfied.
I would like to show you some more tips later. Now I show you the calendar of the peak period in 2016.
Golden Week (late April to early May)
2016’s calendar is the following:
Apr 29 (Fri) Holiday
Apr 30 (Sat)
May 1 (Sun)
May 2 (Mon)
May 3 (Tue) Holiday
May 4 (Wed) Holiday
May 5 (Thu) Holiday
May 6 (Fri)
May 7 (Sat)
May 8 (Sun)
Basically there are two three consecutive days off, April 29 to May 1 and May 3 to May 5. However some of Japanese residents will take extra days off on May 2 and/or May 6. I expect outgoing from the cities is busy on Apr 29 and May 3, and incoming to the cities is busy on May 1, 5 and 8.
Obon (mid August)
Obon is not National holidays. It is Japanese traditional summer break. Usually Obon period is August 13 to 16. 2016 calendar is the following:
Aug 11 (Thu) Holiday
Apr 12 (Fri)
Aug 13 (Sat)
Aug 14 (Sun)
Aug 15 (Mon)
Aug 16 (Tue)
In 2016, Japan will have new holiday, “Mountain’s day” on August 11. Some of local travelers will take an extra day off on April 12 and start to move on August 11. But I expect the busiest day is August 13 for outgoing and August 15 for incoming.
New Years holidays
In Japan, Christmas is not holiday season yet. Public school will have winter break from December 25. And December 23 is holiday. Christmas period is a bit busier than usual. But it is not a big issue. The busiest period in Japan is New Years Holidays. It usually starts on December 29 and finish on January 3. 2016-17 calendar is the following.
Dec 29 (Thu)
Dec 30 (Fri)
Dec 31 (Sat)
Jan 1 (Sun)
Jan 2 (Mon)
Jan 3 (Tue)
For outgoing, I expect train will be busy from December 29 to morning on December 30. January 3 will be very busy for incoming. Most of local travelers want to settle before New Years Eve. Usually December 31 is slow.
January 1 is very slow too. However most of Japanese visit shrine or temple to pray on New Years Day. Local trains run all through the night from December 31 to January 1. Some of local lines are very busy in this period.
How to book a seat in peak period
You may have to travel to same way as local tourists in the peak season. But unfortunately online booking is very limited for overseas travelers.
However you can find the availability of the trains in advance.
You must know the booking status of the trains that you want to take in advance. It will be much easier to find a seat after you arrive in Japan.
The first thing you need to do is trying to book a seat right after you arrive in Japan. But you may not be able to make it. I introduce some tips to expand the possibility to book a seat.
Take early or late trains
Nobody want to travel in early morning and late night. That is why trains in early morning and late night are slower than daytime trains. Late night trains are usually slower than early morning train.
Take slower trains
Everybody wants to get the place as early as possible. That is why slower trains have lower demand than faster trains. I do not recommend you to take local trains to move for a long distance. This technique can be used for Shinkansen only. I recommend you to take slower trains on Shinkansen line, such as Kodama.
Please see the links below to find Shinkansen timetables:
You will find the trains that stop at all stations. That is Kodama. It’s way slower than other Shinkansen trains. But it’s much easier to get a seat on this train. If you are okay with spending extra hours but want to get a seat, try to book a seat on Kodama.
Take Green seat
Green seat is more spacious and more expensive. So usually Green seat is easier to book than Ordinary seat. However in peak period, even Green seat on some trains are booked out. Especially if you are wondering JR pass ordinary or Green, it maybe expand the possibility to get a seat. But if you cannot get Green seat, you have to take ordinary seat even if you have Green pass. It maybe gamble.
Try to book separately
If you cannot find a seat, divide into two segments and try to book. You may find a seat. For example, if you want to get a seat for Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, you can try to book for Tokyo to Nagoya and Nagoya to Shin-Osaka.
How to get a seat on non reserved seat car
It’s first come first serve on non reserved car. There are lots of standing passengers in non reserved cars during peak season. If you want to get a seat in this situation, you must pick the train that depart from the station where you are. For example, if you take Shinkansen from Tokyo station, all trains depart from Tokyo. So you can pick any trains. If you take Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka station, some trains come from other stations, like Tokyo, Okayama. But other trains depart from Shin-Osaka. Look at the Shinkansen timetable links again.
You may find some trains that depart from Shin-Osaka.
Once you pick your trains, show up at the platform and wait on the line at least 30 minutes earlier than departure time. You may show up much earlier if you can. And if you pick early/late and/or slower train, it’s easier to get a seat.
I hope these information will help you to travel smoothly in the peak period.