Break out the tents and folding chairs, Golden Week is back

It’s that time of year again!

Japan’s Golden Week, a series of public holidays within a single week starting April 29 (namely, Showa Day; Constitution Memorial Day; Greenery Day; and Children’s Day), is just around the corner.

Typically coinciding with favorable spring weather, Golden Week has traditionally been a golden opportunity to travel with friends and family. But travel restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted plans for vacationers around the nation, with many opting instead to dig out their old camping gear and enjoy Japan’s bountiful nature, away from the holiday crowds.

As Japan relaxes pandemic recommendations and inbound tourism reenters the picture, it seems that Golden Week travel is back with a vengeance – although many adventurers clearly aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to their tents.

Travel is back on the menu

To celebrate the upcoming holidays, reservation service Rakuten Travel teamed up with online shopping platform Rakuten Ichiba to compare data and publish a list of travel trends for the Golden Week period.

Despite domestic travel recommendations having already been relaxed well before the 2022 holidays, Rakuten Travel has recorded some 40% more reservations for the 2023 Golden Week period. Data from Rakuten Ichiba, meanwhile, revealed that sales of suitcases from January to February of this year jumped by 167% in gross merchandising volume compared to last year, suggesting that Japan’s desire for travel is only now truly regaining steam.

During the pandemic, many wanderers discovered the joy of solitary travel.
During the pandemic, many wanderers discovered the joy of solitary travel.

This strong rebound is evident across all demographics from families to couples, but one standout group is solo women. Some 60% more female travelers are planning to make solo trips over Golden Week compared to last year.

Many of these travelers are choosing urban destinations such as Tokyo and Osaka, leading Rakuten Travel’s data experts to speculate that this trend might stem partly from the return of big-name music artists to Japan’s concert venues. Or perhaps they have simply grown accustomed to the flexibility afforded by solo travel.

The camping craze is here to stay

The strong rebound in traditional travel might lead one to assume that Japan’s camping boom is winding down. Data from Rakuten Ichiba suggests otherwise: Annual sales of outdoor goods on the platform maintained momentum from an initial jump of 39.7% in the first year of the pandemic, displaying a strong average growth rate of 24.3% since 2019.

Compared with the same period in 2019, significant growth was recorded for sales of basic camping items such as outdoor chairs (+83%), outdoor sofas (+127%), and outdoor tables (+105%), along with cooking goods such as portable cooking stoves (+142%) and outdoor eating utensils (+194%).

Revenue from outdoor gear on Rakuten Ichiba still far exceeds 2019 levels.
Revenue from outdoor gear on Rakuten Ichiba still far exceeds 2019 levels.

Another relatively new trend that Rakuten Ichiba’s savvy camping enthusiasts are driving is outdoor digital entertainment. Annual revenue from ‘waterproof’ and ‘portable’ electronics in 2022 has grown 111% and 149% respectively since 2019, and there was a jump in demand for products such as portable power stations (+287%), portable projectors (+43% compared to 2021), and waterproof outdoor speakers (+295%).

The best of both worlds: Savvy campers are snapping up outdoor electronics for the ultimate camping comfort.
The best of both worlds: Savvy campers are snapping up outdoor electronics for the ultimate camping comfort.

As inbound tourism figures recover, Japan’s travel industry is showing signs of a gradual return to pre-pandemic levels. But Rakuten’s data makes it clear that this newfound affinity for the outdoors is more than just a pandemic fad.

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