Golden Week holidaymakers greeted by traffic, long lines

Holidaymakers waited in long lines outside Japan’s major theme parks early Saturday, the first day of Golden Week, while expressways leading to popular tourist attractions were also congested.

People started forming lines around 5:30 a.m. in front of Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture — 21/2 hours before it opened, said park operator Oriental Land Co.

About 53,000 people entered the park by 3 p.m., the operator said.

It estimates a total of 505,000 people will visit the park during the holiday period, which ends May 7, with attendance expected to peak Wednesday and Thursday.

A zoo run by the Yokohama Municipal Government, known as “Zoorasia,” opened at 9 a.m. — 30 minutes early — to accommodate visitors who had been waiting in line from the early morning.

Children squealed with delight when they were greeted with a musical performance by band members dressed in animal costumes.

The zoo, which opened just a year ago, estimates 250,000 people will visit the park during the holiday period.

Meanwhile, heavy traffic was observed on the outbound lanes of the Tomei, Chuo and Kanetsu expressways Saturday morning, with vehicles forced to slow to 20 kph at the Yamato Tunnel on the Tomei Expressway and at a long-distance bus stop in Hachioji on the Chuo Expressway, according to the Japan Road Traffic Information Center.

By the afternoon, the situation had been cleared up on most routes.

Little congestion was observed on bullet trains departing Tokyo for resort areas.

A record 721,100 people are expected to use Narita airport during Golden Week, said the airport’s operator.

According to the New Tokyo International Airport Authority, 356,800 people are expected to depart from the airport, and about 364,300 to arrive.