Golden Week travelers jam Japan’s airports

Kyodo

Travelers taking advantage of this year’s unusually long Golden Week began jamming the nation’s largest airports on Friday.

The number of passengers expected to pass through Narita airport near Tokyo is expected to total 721,000 between Friday and May 7, up 9.7 percent from last year.

Another 154,000 travelers are expected to mob Kansai International Airport near Osaka in the same period.

The high volume of traffic is partially due to the long break this year, with some employers allowing workers to take nine days off.

In addition, many people who put off overseas travel at the end of last year because of paranoia over the Y2K computer problem are taking their vacations now.

“The huge number of people who canceled or skipped traveling due to Y2K seems to be fueling this extended holiday period,” a spokesman of the Japan Travel Bureau said. Fully 43,000 passengers were expected to depart Narita airport on Friday, according to the New Tokyo International Airport Authority.

The figure is predicted to climb to around 49,000 today, the highest number of single-day departures in the airport’s 22-year history.

Akihito Yahara, 39, a company employee from Yokohama, his wife and child were among Friday’s crowd; they were leaving for Italy.

“My kid will have to be absent from elementary school for about three days,” Yahara said. “But this Golden Week is long and a good opportunity, so we talked with the teacher and got the OK to go.”

At Kansai International Airport, the number of passengers leaving for foreign destinations on Friday was expected to be around 19,000, 4,000 more than on an average day, according to the airport’s immigration authorities.

Among them was Kiyoko Jukawa, a 52-year-old housewife from Tottori Prefecture who was embarking on a six-day trip to Canada.

“I want to fully experience the great outdoors in a place where I have never been before,” she said.