There are three big holiday seasons in Japan: New Year’s in January, Golden Week in May (check out my blog post on it here), and Obon in August.
Obon is August 15. It’s a day to honor the spirits of ancestors, but it has evolved into one of the biggest holiday seasons. People usually take a vacation as long as 7 to 10 days around Obon. Some take this opportunity to get together with their family, others go out on a vacation trip, even overseas. If you are true to the tradition, you’d get together with your family, and visit your ancestors’ graves.
Since everybody is on vacation, it’s also the time when transportation gets nasty! Flight tickets are high; traffic jams everywhere; and bullet trains are as crowded as your morning commute. Imagine not getting a seat on a bullet train. You have to stand there for an hour or more depending on your destination. Meanwhile, you’re rocketing on the rails at 180 miles per hour! Fun.
Take this as a general warning. Steer clear of Japan in mid-August unless you like crowds and lines. Plus, August is the hottest month of the year in Japan. Travel in September when you start to feel a nice breeze and everybody else is back at work and school!