Hometown-bound travel rush peaks

Kyodo

The rush of travelers returning to their hometowns for the New Year’s holidays peaked Saturday, with most shinkansen services and domestic flights fully booked throughout the day.

There were no reserved seats available on any bullet trains on the Tohoku, Yamagata, Akita, Joetsu, Nagano and Tokaido shinkansen lines outbound from Tokyo, while most domestic flights departing from Tokyo’s Haneda airport were booked solid, according to carriers.

The number of travelers leaving Haneda for overseas destinations also rose compared with last year, with flights bound for Europe and Hawaii almost full due to the longer holiday period this year.

Those setting off for their hometowns included people with families in the Tohoku region, which is struggling to recover from the catastrophic March 2011 quake and tsunami, and ensuing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

Mika Suwa, 35, who lives in Yokohama with her husband and two children, was waiting in line at Tokyo Station to hop on a Tohoku-bound bullet train Saturday to visit her parents at their quake-damaged home in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture.

“I really feel it’s important that we visit them whenever we can because you never know what can happen,” she said, the memories of last year’s destruction all along the northeast coast still fresh in her mind.

Near JR Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture, Tsutomu Senzaki, 40, and his family were waiting to catch a bus to travel to his in-laws in tsunami-hit Ishinomaki.

“Their house was saved because it is located in a hilly area,” Senzaki said. “I just want them to have a nice time with their grandchildren.”