Startling photos have everyone concerned about a possible new spike in coronavirus cases.

Ever since May, when the Japanese Prime Minister declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay home as much as possible to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, public holidays and long weekends have come and gone with people cancelling trips to stay inside their homes instead.

However, that all seemed to change this week, as Respect for the Aged Day and Autumnal Equinox Day fell on Monday and Tuesday respectively, creating a four-day weekend just as the worst of the stifling summer heat tailed off, bringing about the perfect conditions for travel.

And travel is what people have been doing, with news reports saying there’s been a 249.1-percent increase in travellers to Arashiyama in Kyoto, and increased numbers at other tourist hotspots like Hakone in Kanagawa (109.4 percent), Atami Onsen in Shizuoka (57.6 percent), and Otaru in Hokkaido (54.2 percent).

The roads were jammed with traffic near a lot of tourist spots, particularly in onsen towns, like this one at Jozankei, an onsen town near Sapporo in Hokkaido.

To give you an idea of how many cars were on the roads, there was a 60-kilometre-long traffic jam from Nishishinjuku in Tokyo to Uenohara in Yamanashi Prefecture, located 61 kilometres (38 miles) away.

Yamanashi Prefecture is home to one half of Mt Fuji (as it lies on the boundary between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures), and it’s also famous for Hottarakashi Onsen, which had a line of people waiting to get in.

▼ The massive spike in visitors was recorded on Google.

At Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, the park became so full they had to restrict entry, with people lining up for two hours to get in.

▼ This was the crowd waiting to enter the park when it opened at 8 a.m.

Mt Takao, a popular hiking spot near Tokyo, was similarly crowded, with queues forming on the forest trails when emergency services were called to transport an injured hiker to hospital.

A lot of people were drawn to the great outdoors, with Raichosawa Camping Ground in Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture, packed with visitors.

▼ This was the line to use the toilets at the campground.

Even Nagano’s remote highland valley Kamikochi had its tranquil surroundings interrupted by throngs of visitors, who queued for two hours to board the shuttle bus to the carpark.

One of the worst places turned out to be the Kodomonokuni theme park located in Yokohama, just outside of Tokyo.

▼ The park was so packed it appeared on television reports.

▼ Trains were so crowded one Twitter user likened it to Comiket in Tokyo.

While new coronavirus cases in Japan have this week dropped to below 500 — lower than the first spike seen in April, when 743 cases were recorded, and early August, when there were 1,998 new cases — the pandemic is far from over, and people are now concerned that the widespread weekend travel will result in another spike.

“Um, did I miss something? Is the pandemic over??”
“It’ll be scary to see what the numbers are like in two weeks’ time…”
“Roadside rest stations are also filled with people visiting from outside the prefecture.”
“There’s no sense of crisis here because the number of COVID-19 cases is less than other countries.”
“Why the heck would you want to spend your holidays stressed out in big crowds?”
“I work at a cafe in a local tourist area, and today was the busiest day of the whole year.”

While people are rightly concerned about the crowds of people gathering together, often outside of their home prefectures, local businesses and the government will no doubt be pleased to see people travelling.

It’s exactly what the government’s Go To campaign was aiming for — providing travel subsidies to the public to get them moving and spending to help the economy during the pandemic. Whether or not this will have a detrimental effect on the national health system, however, is yet to be seen.

Source: Jin
Featured image: Pakutaso
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