National / Media | Japan Pulse

Attempting to switch off from social media during Golden Week

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

As the relaxed vibe of the recent 10-day Golden Week holiday slowly fades, many commuters in Tokyo appeared to struggle last week to return to the rat race.

The longer than usual holiday offered people an opportunity to travel abroad or chill out at home. It also gave people a chance to switch off from social media, a place that can sometimes feel almost as stressful as working in an office.

The internet never stops, though.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, no one issue dominated the online discussion in Japan over this period. Instead, a number of localized conversations popped up all over the place.  

To help catch you up, this week’s Japan Pulse offers a roundup of some of the more notable Twitter feuds and viral videos that unfolded over the break.

Not surprisingly, the imperial succession that took place in the middle of the renkyū (consecutive holidays) dominated much of the conversation. The change of era inspired netizens to turn even mundane acts into something worthy of a time capsule, with a popular hashtag devoted to “last meal of Heisei” performing well on Twitter. The same principle was behind another popular trend showcasing users’ “final masterpiece” of the Heisei Era (1989-2019), and the first half of Golden Week saw massive interest in nostalgia, producing some charming fan art in the process.

Then the Reiwa Era began, and all smartphones turned to what this new age would bring online. A flurry of cute drawings welcoming Reiwa emerged, while bands such as Golden Bomber uploaded celebration videos. Even astronauts joined the conversation. This proved to be a goldmine for online publications, which, like their TV counterparts, didn’t hesitate to jump on the bandwagon. Online articles summed up how the internet reacted (which sounds suspiciously familiar), while Buzzfeed Japan got slightly clever in making a post showcasing all the images that international media published to mark Reiwa’s dawn.

Buzzfeed also documented the April 30 revelry in the final moments of Heisei. It might eventually become one of the biggest memories of the changeover: The countdown felt like a genuine moment of everyone coming together for a shared experience — both in real life and online. Plus, it all resulted in either the last viral tweet of Heisei or the first of Reiwa, when a Twitter user uploaded a video of a man wearing a “Minions” shirt in Osaka attempting to jump into the city’s river — but who only succeeded at landing on the bow of a boat passing underneath. He was mostly OK.

However, not everyone enjoyed Golden Week. According to reports online, a lot of people were actually using the 10 days off as a way to re-evaluate their life. An online report on MBS News said that a company helping people quit their jobs was reporting huge business over the break because people had more time to think about their careers.

One such Japanese writer may be thinking of a career change after posting a commentary about something they dubbed “Culture Face” on a blog titled Don’Cry. The writer argued that a lot of young models, musicians and actors in Japan had faces that were at odds with traditional beauty standards (although the writer frames it in terms of a “They look weird, right?” kind of way). Artist Nariaki Obukuro, who was included as an example in the entry, hit back on Twitter. Obukuro said it was outrageous to categorize people based on appearances alone, responding directly to the writer. It spread from there, resulting in in-depth essays on the subject and an apology from the blog that started the entire thing.

While this worked as a nice reminder to always check your content before going on the offense, “Culture Face” also spread at least partially because of how little was happening during the holidays. While a lot happened online, there was little outside of the imperial succession worth talking about.

Maybe people really were taking it easy over Golden Week, which allowed for some more offbeat content to have time in the sun — like photos of a train line employee removing a giant bamboo shoot from the tracks. Now that kind of content’s the perfect fodder for an extended staycation.

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