Warning for Travelers to Japan: Buses will not wait for late passengers at highway rest stops

The start of the New Year in Japan marks the busiest time for domestic travel as people across the country make their way back to their hometowns to reunite with family and loved ones. It is a time-honored tradition for many Japanese people to take part in this mass migration, known as “shunsetsu.”

This annual exodus sees millions of people traveling by train, bus, and car to reach their destinations, leading to congested transportation hubs and roadways. The influx of travelers also results in packed airports and longer waiting times for flights, as people embark on their journey to celebrate the New Year and participate in important cultural and religious customs.

The significance of spending time with family during the New Year is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, with many people prioritizing this time to gather with relatives and engage in traditional activities. It is a time for reflection, renewal, and reaffirming bonds with loved ones, as well as paying respects to ancestors through rituals and ceremonies.

Shunsetsu, or the New Year’s homecoming, is an occasion for families to come together, share meals, and participate in customary practices such as hatsumode, the first shrine or temple visit of the year, and osechi ryori, traditional New Year’s cuisine. These traditions are a way of ushering in good luck, health, and prosperity for the year ahead.

Despite the challenges posed by crowded transportation and travel logistics, many people view the journey back home as an essential part of the holiday experience. The sense of community and togetherness that comes from being with family and partaking in these customs is a deeply cherished aspect of the New Year celebrations in Japan.

As the year draws to a close, people begin making their travel arrangements well in advance, bracing themselves for the hustle and bustle of the holiday travel season. Whether it’s booking tickets for the Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed bullet train, or navigating congested highways, the journey home for New Year’s is a rite of passage for many.

In recent years, advancements in technology and transportation infrastructure have helped ease some of the congestion and delays associated with holiday travel. With the introduction of online ticketing, advanced scheduling systems, and additional train and bus services, travelers have more options for planning their journey and reducing the stress of navigating the crowded travel landscape.

As the countdown to the New Year begins, the anticipation for shunsetsu builds, as people from all walks of life prepare to embark on their pilgrimage back to their hometowns. The atmosphere is one of excitement, joy, and a deep sense of connection to one’s roots, as Japanese people eagerly await the opportunity to come together and celebrate the start of a new year with their families.


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