Holiday rush kicks in; many flocking to see Tohoku

Kyodo

Major airports, highways and railway stations across the nation were crowded with vacationers Saturday as the annual Golden Week spring holiday season began, with departures for overseas destinations peaking at Narita airport.

Areas in the northeast devastated by the March 2011 quake and tsunami also saw many tourists taking advantage of the holiday season, which runs until May 6, to visit and spend money there to help local people reconstruct their communities.

Narita International Airport Corp. said it expected the number of departures to reach about 42,000 on Saturday alone and for total departures and arrivals of international flights during Golden Week to rise 16 percent from a year earlier to 598,000.

At the airport, Kanae Kobayashi, 24, from Yokohama, said she was looking forward to visiting Taiwan. “I want to have a good time sightseeing and trying local cuisine,” she said.

The Japan Road Traffic Information Center said Saturday morning a line of vehicles stretched for 30 km on the outbound lane of the Chugoku Expressway from the Takarazuka interchange, near Osaka, and for 23 km from the Takasaka service area, near Tokyo, on the outbound lane of the Kanetsu Expressway.

The operators of major train services said they expect departures of passengers from Tokyo and other metropolises to peak in the second half of Golden Week, likely May 3.

In tsunami-hit Iwate Prefecture, the prefectural government said about 400 people nationwide had already made bookings for package tours to locations such as the coastal cities of Rikuzentakata and Ofunato by bus during Golden Week.

Tsutomu Nihei, 43, from Chiba Prefecture, was among those taking a bus tour to the two cities. “I had no chance before but took part in this tour using Golden Week. . . . I really want to see what the disaster-hit area is like now.”

In Minamisanriku, in adjacent Miyagi Prefecture, Hotel Kanyo said it has taken many reservations from vacationers who plan to stay there during Golden Week and that all of its rooms are fully booked for Thursday and Friday.

The hotel organizes a one-hour bus tour every morning for guests, during which staff recall the disaster. A hotel employee said, “We have got a bigger bus.”