People began traveling en masse again Saturday, a day after the government lifted its last-remaining advisories recommending against interprefecture travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The government, however, still faces a difficult task of reining in the spread of the coronavirus while accelerating economic activity to help businesses recover.
At JR Tokyo Station, face mask-wearing East Japan Railway Co. officials were busy serving luggage-carrying travelers at service windows partitioned by vinyl sheets installed as part of anti-virus measures.
Kota Kikuchi, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from Tokyo, was heading to Tochigi Prefecture by bullet train to take part in horseback riding club activities with his mother, 42.
“It’s been a while (since I have traveled) because I wasn’t able to go to the club due to the coronavirus,” Kikuchi said.
The government on Friday withdrew its request that people in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, as well as Hokkaido, refrain from crossing prefectural borders.
The areas were the last in the country to see the request lifted and were also the last group of prefectures where the state of emergency was lifted by the government in May.
Natsuko Negishi, a 51-year-old housewife from Tokyo, was heading to Sendai on Saturday to meet up with a friend for a trip to the Akiu hot spring resort in Miyagi Prefecture.
“I heard some people are worried about travelers arriving from Tokyo, where infection cases have been reported,” Negishi said. “We’ll take extra precautions so as not to upset them.”
One 41-year-old woman from Tokyo, meanwhile, was on her way to visit her in-laws in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, with her 6-year-old and 1-year-old daughters.
“They’ll see their granddaughters for the first time since the New Year. I’m sure they’ll be excited,” she said.
The elder girl said, “I can’t wait to play video games with grandma.”
Tourists were returning to popular sightseeing spots elsewhere as well.
“It’s livelier here than my last visit in early April,” said Yoko Tanaka, a 40-year-old real estate agent from Saitama who was visiting the Nijo Fish Market in Sapporo.
At Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s three most famous gardens, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, visitors snapped photos in front of a landmark stone lantern.
“I was moved to see the the beautiful scenery with my own eyes. I hope tourist sites facing challenges (due to the pandemic) will survive,” said Izumi Tanaka, a 62-year-old Osaka resident.
Hideaki Yoshinaga, a 59-year-old resident of Osaka Prefecture, was visiting the Beppu hot spring resort in Oita Prefecture, a destination popular with foreign tourists.
“I don’t see any foreign tourists here. I guess the situation is still difficult,” he said.
On Friday, over 50 new infections were reported in Japan, bringing the total to more than 18,400, including those from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February. The death toll from the virus stood at 972 as of Saturday morning.
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