News in Pictures / Golden Week Bustle Returns to Pre-pandemic Levels

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Children on horseback are led through Yahaba, Iwate Prefecture, in the Chagu Chagu Umakko parade.

Cooped up for years by the pandemic, people welcomed their first Golden Week holiday period free of restrictions by getting out and flocking to hot springs, amusement parks, beaches and other tourist spots around the country. Festivals were back in full swing, and popular destinations reported seeing near pre-pandemic numbers at the start of the series of holidays on Saturday.

At Kobe’s Arima Hot Springs, one of the most popular resorts in the Kansai region, many tourists were seen walking the streets with snacks or making use of the footbaths. Said a 50-year-old woman visiting from Sendai with her husband: “It’s been a while since I’ve traveled far from home. The [traditional] townscape of Arima makes me feel relaxed.”

With the easing of mask-wearing rules, people were seen in Kyoto’s famous Arashiyama district posing for photos with uncovered faces. The city’s Nishiki Market shopping street was also packed with visitors. “I feel the energy and enjoy making my way through the crowd, but I’m still a bit worried about infection,” said a 67-year-old tourist from Nagano Prefecture.

Major travel agency JTB Corp. estimates that this year’s Golden Week, which lasts through Sunday, will see an increase of 53.1% in the number of domestic travelers over the previous year to 24.5 million. The number of people traveling overseas is expected to quadruple from the previous year to 200,000.

According to Japan Railway companies, seat reservations on Shinkansen bullet trains and express trains have recovered to 90% of pre-pandemic levels in 2018.

All Nippon Airways Co. said reservations for international flights in the April 29-May 7 period totaled 152,309, up 170% from the previous year.

There was also a noticeable increase in foreign tourists in the hot spots following the lifting Friday of border control measures against the novel coronavirus, making entry procedures smoother.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From Left: A Hanagasa dance is performed on a street in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture./ Visitors enjoy the fields of daffodils at Norn Minakami Flower Garden in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture. / Kyoto’s Arashiyama district is crowded with tourists.