The exodus of people spending the New Year’s holidays overseas or outside major metropolitan areas peaked Saturday, filling up seats on bullet trains and congesting roads.
As a wide area of the country was gripped by cold weather, the Meteorological Agency also warned the public to beware of heavy snow and possible disruptions of transportation systems from northern to western Japan, especially in Sea of Japan coastal areas.
On Saturday alone, more than 80,000 people were expected to leave the country from airports in the Tokyo area — 55,200 from Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture and 29,000 from Haneda airport in Ota Ward — according to airport officials.
The departure lobby at Narita was filled with families dragging suitcases as airport announcements urged them to complete boarding procedures ahead of time.
“I can’t wait to swim with dolphins,” said Naho Aya, a 9-year-old from Hachioji, western Tokyo, before leaving for Palau with her parents and grandparents.
Midori Kurino, a 30-year-old resident of Shiroi, Chiba Prefecture, said she will spend the New Year’s holiday abroad for the first time.
“I heard there will be a New Year’s countdown. I’m looking forward to enjoying a different new year,” Kurino said before leaving for Bali, Indonesia, with friends.
The Japan Road Traffic Information Center said traffic delays were in effect along outbound expressways near the Suzuka exit in Mie Prefecture, as well as the Toyota junction in Aichi Prefecture.
According to major train service operators, reserved seats on many bullet trains, including those of the Tokaido and Tohoku shinkansen lines departing from Tokyo Station, were almost sold out.
Also, 15- to 30-minute delays were seen between some sections on the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines on Saturday morning due to snow, according to the Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co.
On Saturday morning, the city of Aomori observed an accumulated snowfall of 200 centimeters, while the village of Okura, in Yamagata Prefecture, saw over 150 centimeters. Snow also fell on parts of central and western Japan, including Nagoya, and Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.
Heavy snow is expected to continue through Sunday in areas along the Sea of Japan coastline.