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On holiday weekend, travel surges in Japan


Train stations and airports in Japan were filled with people over this “Silver Week” holiday weekend running through Tuesday, in a sign of recovering local travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The surge of domestic travel is a contrast to previous holidays, such as the summer Obon. Pressures were high for people living in urban congested areas not to visit families or play tourist in areas, where cases have been far fewer, with some regions having zero or a handful. The daily new cases of coronavirus infections in Tokyo have recently fluctuated at around 200 people. Japan does not have widespread testing and so many cases are likely going undetected. Baseball games, stores and theaters are back open in recent weeks with social distancing, mask-wearing, hand sanitizers and temperature checks.

A government-backed “GoTo” discount campaign at hotels and restaurants to encourage travel within Japan began in July, but Tokyo was left out. It’s still unclear whether that gets lifted from next month, as proposed. Travel agencies and tourist spots have started taking reservations, with cancellation guaranteed at no extra cost if Tokyo fails to quality.

A study by mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo showed crowd size at a terminal for domestic flights at Tokyo’s main Haneda airport, as well as train stations and shopping districts nationwide, on Saturday was basically at pre-pandemic levels, just a tad lower, according to Kyodo News service. It had fallen by about a third, as of earlier this month.

Japan, which has about 1,500 deaths related to COVID-19 so far, has banned visitors from almost all countries, and requires quarantine and virus checks for returning Japanese.

Silver Week includes this weekend and two national holidays, Respect for the Aged Day and the Autumn Equinox. Japanese have a reputation as workaholics because of a rigid work culture and fears about job loss, but younger and more individualistic Japanese are starting to take extended time off.

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