Train stations, airports jammed as New Year’s exodus begins

Kyodo

The annual New Year’s exodus began Saturday as travelers packed airports and railway stations to head for their hometowns or other places to spend the holidays.

With this year’s calendar making it easy for most workers to take nine consecutive days off starting Saturday, travel peaked at airports.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. said over 90 percent of their domestic flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport the same day had already been booked.

International flights are close to capacity, too, with ANA saying occupancy was 97 percent for flights from Narita airport, Haneda airport, Kansai International Airport in Osaka, and Chubu Centrair near Nagoya.

More than 48,000 people were expected to leave Narita airport on Saturday, but the tally from Dec. 19 to Jan. 4 is expected to fall to around 1.24 million, down 4 percent from 2013, due to the weakened yen, Narita International Airport Corp. said, adding that Hawaii, Taiwan and other regional getaways are popular this year.

The Japan Road Traffic Information Center said Saturday morning that there was a 17-km traffic jam on the Tomei Expressway near Ayase, Kanagawa Prefecture, and a 10-km bottleneck on the Chugoku Expressway near Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture.

In Kansai, JR Shin-Osaka Station was packed and non-reserved seats for the Nozomi bullet train service from Shin-Osaka to Hakata stations were 130 percent booked at around 8:30 a.m.

Bullet train use is expected to peak on Tuesday, with the peak for domestic airline travel is expected to be split between Saturday and Wednesday. Highways are expected to be crowded throughout the holidays.

The U-turn is expected to begin Friday.