Vacationers started to crowd JR Tokyo Station and Haneda airport Tuesday bound for their hometowns for the New Year’s holiday, and the yearend outbound rush will peak today, officials said.

According to the Japan Railways group, all westbound Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen line trains Tuesday morning were full, except for a few seats on the Nozomi super express headed for Shin-Osaka.

Occupancy on the Hikari 101 bound for Hakata Station in Fukuoka at around 6 a.m. Tuesday was more than 110 percent, meaning some passengers had to stand, rail officials said, noting that at one point about 300 passengers were lined up at the Tokyo Station entrances to the northbound Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines.

In the afternoon, most bullet trains departing from Tokyo Station were almost full. The 2:45 p.m. Hikari 167 bound for Okayama Station from Tokyo had an occupancy of 120 percent.

Many morning flights out of Haneda airport had vacant seats, but most in the afternoon were full.

However, only a few dozen people lined up for canceled seats, contrary to earlier expectations. The majority of them wanted to fly to Sapporo and Fukuoka.

“For the past few years, people no longer line up overnight to reserve seats. Passengers may be using new airlines, but basically, demand for flights has decreased because of the recession,” an airline official said.

The Tomei, Chuo and other major expressways saw little congestion, because motorists reportedly now try to avoid all driving to their hometowns on the same day.

“Even if a traffic jam occurs, it will only be about 10 to 20 km long,” a Japan Highway Public Corp. official said.

JR stations and airports in the Kansai region were also packed with New Year’s holidaymakers Tuesday morning, but the forecasted heavy traffic on expressways did not materialize.

According to JR West, many passengers on the 10 a.m. Hikari 103 from Tokyo to Hakata had to stand in the aisle. Other westbound trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line were also packed Tuesday morning, it said.

But the Nozomi trains, which require a reservation, had seats available for early morning and evening runs, and some Hikari and Kodama bullet trains were only half booked, the carrier said.

The Ocean Arrow 17, which left Kyoto for Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture, at 12:35 p.m., had an occupancy rate of 180 percent, but some other lines had vacant seats.

JR West officials estimated that passengers returning home would gradually increase in the afternoon. The occupancy of the 1:06 p.m. Hikari 115 bound to Hakata from Osaka Station reached 140 percent.

Traffic jams were not seen on the Meishin and Chugoku expressways, highway officials said.

Ferryboats from Osaka and Kobe to Shikoku and Kyushu meanwhile had seats available, officials said.

Families and young people with snowboards were seen at Osaka’s Itami airport Tuesday morning, and officials expect the airport to see a larger number of travelers today.

All Nippon Airways bolstered its ticket counter personnel by 10 percent to help passengers at Itami airport, and almost all 51 flights leaving were full, ANA said.

“My bonus was decreased from the previous year, and it’s a tough yearend for me. But my three young children won’t be able to stand the long shinkansen ride,” said a 36-year-old office worker from Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, planning to fly to Fukuoka.

Families leaving for holidays overseas filled the departure lobby at Kansai International Airport.

The Osaka Immigration Bureau said 18,200 people left the country Tuesday. Airlines heading to China, South Korea and Southeast Asia were crowded, sources said.

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