JR train ridership around the new year increased for the third straight year, according to Japan Railway Group companies.
From Dec. 28 to Jan. 6, ridership on trains operated by the six JR Group companies rose 3 percent from a year earlier to 11.34 million.
The increase reflected a convenient holiday calendar that enabled longer vacations, according to East Japan Railway Co.
The number of passengers using the Kaiji and Azusa limited express trains on the Chuo Line from Tokyo to Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures rose 24 percent from a year before.
Ridership on the two limited express trains has jumped since the fatal Dec. 2 ceiling collapse inside the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi, which runs almost parallel to the Chuo Line.
While four of the six JR companies saw ridership increase, the number of passengers served by Hokkaido Railway Co. and Shikoku Railway Co. changed little. In Hokkaido, 691 train services were suspended due to heavy snow.
Meanwhile, ridership on domestic flights of Japanese airlines between Dec. 21 and Jan. 6 was up 13 percent from a year earlier to 4.4 million, while the number of passengers on international flights rose 11.9 percent to 770,000, data from carriers showed Monday.
Passengers on China-bound flights did not increase, but the fallout from the territorial dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea “has hit bottom,” an official at Japan Airlines said.
Meanwhile, the three domestic low-cost carriers said their passenger volumes were strong overall, with occupancy rates exceeding 70 percent.
JR Kyushu Jet Ferry Inc. said Monday the number of Japanese passengers on its rapid ferry service between Hakata and the South Korean port of Busan around the end of year plunged 35.3 percent from a year earlier, apparently due to repercussions from a territorial dispute between the two countries.
While the number of Japanese passengers fell to about 6,500 between Dec. 28 and Jan. 6., South Korean ridership surged 48.8 percent to around 8,000, the highest in the past five years, according to the Japanese ferry operator.
“No other political factor in the past has ever affected our service for such a long time,” a JR Kyushu official said in reference to the dispute over the South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan — called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean— that heightened last year.
JR Kyushu attributed the expansion in South Korean customers to the strengthening of the won against the yen, as well as the presidential election in South Korea in mid-December, during which many in the country shunned traveling abroad.