The end of April and the start of May in Japan is always the best no matter what your job or where you are. It’s a glorious period know as Golden Week, which is the Japanese equivalent of Easter holidays in the there’s a slew of national holidays that see all and sundry take to the roads and the sky on their way to a week-long vacation.
Of course the downside is that when you are one of those people yourself you soon find that every train, plane and bus is filled to bursting which makes traveling just a bit more stressful than it needs to be.
That said, it’s still immensely satisfying to be able to just unwind and get away from the humdrum of your everyday routine and do something different.
This year though most of the Golden Week holidays fell on weekends which meant that I enjoyed a Golden Weekend trip rather than a Golden Week trip to Nagano. Seeing as I live in the southern part of Japan this meant I had to take a bus for an hour from my small rural town to the nearest airport and then board a plane for a 2 hour flight to Tokyo after which I and to take another bus for an hour to the highway bus terminal in Shinjuku before boarding a highway bus for 3.5 hours bound for Nagano. All told, it was close to 12 hours after leaving my apartment on Friday morning that I finally stepped out into the Nagano evening.
Since I only had three actual days to spend in Nagano thanks to most of the Golden Week holidays I didn’t have much time to do too much traveling in Nagano itself so I tried to narrow what I wanted to do down to the bare essentials.
First off, I wanted to try out a Mexican / Okinawan fusion restaurant in Suwa called Full Taco. Nagano ALTs had been raving about how good it was and not having had the chance to try much Mexican food in South Africa I wanted to try out their dishes for myself. Thankfully the praise that had been heaped on Full Taco was well deserved. Their taco rice and actual tacos were awesome and well worth the trip through to Suwa! It also helps that the lake by Suwa and Okaya is one of the most beautiful and scenic spots I’ve seen in my time here in Japan and I’ve fallen more and more in love with it every time I’ve been there.
I also managed to catch a glimpse of some of the final cherry blossoms and peach blossoms before they finally leave and herald the start of the rainy season and the humidity of Japanese summers.
Throw in a lot of great eating experiences, doing some last-minute paperwork and a few trips to meet friends and before I knew it my trip had finished and I had to make my trip back to my hometown to start another week behind my desk.
The trip back saw me having to wake up at 4:30 am and take the same series of buses, trains and planes back. The low-cost carrier flights in Japan are awkwardly timed for me which means every time I need to travel to anywhere else in Japan I usually have to wake up way too soon than is proper for any sane person. The alternative though is to pay way too much for plane tickets. Coming from South Africa I’m used to cheap and convenient flights so when I first arrived here it took a lot of time to get used to the logistical juggling that is travel planning in Japan!