Apr 27, 2019
TOKYO - The number of holidaymakers from Japan traveling domestically and overseas is expected to reach a record high during the extended Golden Week vacation, according to a major travel agency.
Golden Week -- starting Saturday and running through May 6 -- has been lengthened to 10 days for the first time this year to celebrate the imperial succession.
Japanese travel agency JTB Corp. said 24.67 million people are set to travel between April 25 and May 5, up 1.2 percent from the same period last year, with 24.01 million on domestic trips and 662,000 going overseas, both record highs.
While many people will use the break to take longer vacations than usual, travel packages celebrating Crown Prince Naruhito's ascension and the start of the new Reiwa Era next Wednesday -- after Emperor Akihito's abdication the previous day -- are popular.
Nippon Travel Agency Co. said it has sold out a three-day tour from Osaka to Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Shimane Prefecture historically associated with the royal family, to celebrate the end of the Heisei Era and beginning of the Reiwa Era.
The agency has also received many inquiries for its day trip on May 4 from travelers who want to join other well-wishers when they will be allowed entry into the Imperial Palace to congratulate the new emperor.
"There is a huge momentum for both domestic and overseas trips," a spokesman for the agency said.
Internationally, trips to nearby destinations such as South Korea and Taiwan and relatively distant ones such as Hawaii and Europe are popular.
Myanmar became one of the attractive countries to visit after it began granting visa-free entries to Japanese tourists for a year from last October.
Among domestic trips, the operator of the Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train saw the first year-on-year rise in its seat reservation for the Golden Week holiday since the opening of the service in 2016.
Travelers can get from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido -- where cherry blossom blooms latest in Japan -- in less than four hours, after a timetable revision in March.
"We expect an increase in passengers as (the holidays) overlap with the cherry blossom season" in Hokkaido, an official at Hokkaido Railway Co. said.
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