In the Japanese holiday seasons, it is near impossible to avoid crowds and travel can be expensive. Here are some hints on how to avoid costs and crowds and still have a great time.
1. If possible, book your train or airplane tickets so that you depart a day or two before the holidays start and return a day or two after the holidays end. This can make a huge difference in the price or availability of the tickets.
2. Avoid family attractions. Obon and Golden Week are one of the few times that the whole family can travel together so child friendly attractions are swamped. During my Obon trip to Tokyo Disney, the line for the newest Tokyo Disney ride was listed as a six hour wait. The average wait for a ride that day was three hours and all of the fast-passes were gone by nine in the morning. The best time to go to attractions like Tokyo Disney or Universal Studios are on school days during fall or spring since it significantly cuts back on how many people are able to go and the weather is neither too hot nor cold.
3. Some attractions and museums such as the Ghibli museum sell out quickly. Sometimes tickets sell out months in advance, so always check ticket availability before traveling to a sight and book your tickets early.
4. The major cities and tourist spots are always crowded during the holiday season, a fun and less expensive alternative is to visit the countryside. Going to small towns and seeing what they have to offer, you can avoid crowds and see life in rural Japan.
5. The holiday season is always extremely busy in Japan so it is important to keep in mind that the lines in the airports and train stations will be longer and you may need to budget extra time for getting through check-in and security.
6. Seeing things in early in the morning or late at night cuts down on the crowds a little, but not everything opens early and closes late.
7. Be flexible and keep a guide book handy. If a sight you wanted to see is just too packed, open your book and see what else is nearby. Chance are that will be crowded too, but the crowd there might be a little more manageable.
Photo: Kevin Krejci