Airports and train stations across Japan witnessed a significant surge in travelers on Friday, as people embarked on journeys to their hometowns in what marks the first summer holiday season after COVID-19’s legal classification was downgraded to that of a seasonal flu.
At Haneda Airport in Tokyo, eager travelers formed lines for security checks. However, amidst the excitement, there was also apprehension due to an impending typhoon, forecasted to unleash stormy weather from Monday onwards onto Honshu, the country’s main island.
Yusuke Tada, 44, shared his perspective: “With the subsiding of the coronavirus pandemic, we can now reunite with our extended family members.” He and his family of four were en route to Yamaguchi Prefecture. However, he voiced concern, “Our return might be hastened depending on the typhoon’s course.”
From early morning, Tokyo Station’s shinkansen platforms were bustling with activity, as individuals hauled large suitcases, ready for their journeys. This mid-August period of Bon holidays is a cornerstone of Japan’s annual vacation timeline.
Figures unveiled last month by Japan Railway companies painted a vivid picture. The number of reserved seats for the week beginning on the current Thursday had surged by 1.5 times compared to the previous year for both local trains and shinkansen, totaling 2.7 million. This represents a remarkable 92% of the figures recorded in 2018.
In a parallel trend, reservations for domestic flights experienced a 1.2-fold increase, reaching an impressive 3.7 million. International flights followed suit, doubling to an astonishing 556,000 reservations.
A pivotal juncture was reached in May of this year when the government revised COVID-19’s legal classification, aligning it with that of seasonal influenza. This shift was accompanied by a substantial easing of health-related restrictions, marking a notable departure from three years of grappling with the coronavirus challenge.
Even recommendations regarding face masks were rescinded in March, signifying a significant step towards normalization.
As summer envelops Japan and people embark on journeys to connect with loved ones, the surge in travel serves as a testament to the nation’s resilience and optimism in the face of adversity.