If you work in Japan, there are precious few long holidays that won’t cost you your limited vacation days. For teachers, there are only two you can really count on: Golden Week and New Years (and every few years there’s a Silver Week in there too, but it’s irregular and tends to throw everything out of wack). However, it is important to remember that, compared to many Western countries, New Years in Japan is much quieter and more family-oriented affair. This means that unlike Golden Week, many businesses and tourist destinations shut down during this time.
This was a vital fact I had, for one, had forgotten before planning my trip to Hiroshima. However, if living in Japan teaches you anything, it is how to adjust on the fly.
Hiroshima is actually a (day) trip that I would really recommend to go on during the New Years’ holiday. Almost everything may be shut down, but a lot of Hiroshima’s beauty and tourist draws are located outside anyway. This means that you can spend hours wandering around the Peace Park or Miyajima without worrying about the same kind of crowd you might get on any other day.
The fact that everything is closed also means that you can stick to your own schedule. If you are awake and ready to go at 7:30 in the morning, then you can go. No need to wait for that museum or castle to open.
For me (after getting over the realization that everything was closed), this meant that I got to enjoy the castle grounds in peace and silence. I was then able to wander around the Peace Park, ducking a few tour groups, and take the whole thing at my own pace. There was no schedule, there was no stress, and I have never felt freer on a trip before.
Miyajima was already a bit crowded when I arrived, but it was still easy to move around the crowd and getting into the main temple was a breeze. I was able to waste a few hours there, just wandering around.
The bottom line is if you want to travel for the winter holiday, I recommend doing what most people do: leave the country. If you cannot do that, then pick a location whose main attractions are not behind some gate that can be closed.
Check out my main blog at: journeyingjodi.wordpress.com/