Dec 29, 2018
TOKYO - The exodus of people spending the New Year's holidays overseas and outside the Tokyo metropolitan area peaked in Japan on Saturday, filling up seats on bullet trains and congesting roads.
As a wide area of the country is gripped by cold weather, the Japan Meteorological Agency also alerted the public to beware of heavy snow and possible disruptions of transportation systems from northern to western Japan, especially along the coast of the Sea of Japan.
On Saturday alone, more than 80,000 people are expected to leave the country -- 55,200 from Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and 29,000 from Haneda airport in the country's capital -- according to the airports.
The departure lobby at Narita airport was swarmed with families carrying suitcases and other travelers, and airport announcements urged them to complete boarding procedures ahead of time.
"I can't wait to swim with dolphins," said Naho Aya, a 9-year-old from Hachioji, western Tokyo, before leaving for Palau with her parents and grandparents.
Midori Kurino, a 30-year-old resident of Shiroi, Chiba Prefecture, said she will spend the New Year holidays abroad for the first time.
"I heard there will be a New Year's countdown. I'm looking forward to enjoying a different New Year," Kurino said before leaving for Bali, Indonesia, with friends.
The Japan Road Traffic Information Center said delays in traffic have been seen in outbound expressways near the Suzuka exit in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, as well as the Toyota junction in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan.
According to major train service operators, reserved seats on many bullet trains including those of the Tokaido and Tohoku Shinkansen lines departing from Tokyo Station have been almost sold out.
Also, 15- to 30-minute delays of schedule were seen between some sections on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines in the morning due to the snow, according to the Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co.
On Saturday morning, Aomori City in northeastern Japan observed an accumulated snowfall of 200 centimeters, while the village of Okura, Yamagata Prefecture, saw over 150-cm deep snow. Snowfall was also seen in parts of central and western Japan, including Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture and Matsue in Shimane Prefecture.
Heavy snow is expected to continue through Sunday in areas along the Sea of Japan coast, from northern to western Japan.
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