Coronavirus fears left the nation’s normally jam-packed bullet trains and expressways deserted on the first day of Golden Week on Saturday as the pace of infections showed little sign of slowing.
Many of the shinkansen leaving Tokyo Station Saturday were over 90 percent empty, railways said. Golden Week, a string of several closely timed national holidays, is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for the tourism industry.
“The train is empty as if one whole car is reserved just for me,” said a 43-year-old woman who was boarding at Tokyo Station to go to Nagoya to see her parents.
“I work in the finance industry and Golden Week is almost the only time I can go back home,” she said.
One Yamagata shinkansen linking Tokyo with cities in the northeast departed Saturday morning with no one on board, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) said.
On the road, meanwhile, the Ebina rest area on the Tomei Expressway in western Tokyo was nearly empty, an eerie scene reflecting the lack of expressway congestion across the country.
Airlines have also drastically reduced services, canceling 88 percent of domestic flights and 97 percent of international flights for the normally lucrative period.
Enoshima beach in Kanagawa Prefecture was also quiet on Saturday. The sight of off-limits signs and police cars patrolling the area contrasted sharply with last weekend, when crowds of surfers were enjoying themselves.
“Last weekend was like summer around here, but today, it’s so quiet,” said an 80-year-old woman who takes walks in the area everyday.
The state of emergency declared on April 7 for Tokyo, Osaka and five other densely populated prefectures was expanded to the entire country on April 16. Under the declaration, which lasts through the last day of Golden Week on May 6, governors can take strong steps to curb the pneumonia-causing virus. The central government is pushing for an 80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact.
But some stores and recreational facilities have started to see an increase in visitors despite the stay-at-home request, forcing local leaders to requests additional efforts of residents to limit their outings.
Wednesday will be the first national holiday of Golden Week this year, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is asking companies to implement a 12-day holiday from Saturday to keep employees from going to the office.
As of Friday, Japan had confirmed over 13,500 infections and 358 deaths as a result of COVID-19.