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Tokyo Station deserted as Golden Week holidays start amid virus pandemic

A platform for Tokaido Shinkansen bullet trains is seen almost deserted at JR Tokyo Station on April 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

TOKYO -- The Golden Week series of national holidays started in Japan on April 25 with unusually low numbers of train passengers seen in the capital amid government calls for people to stay home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

JR Tokyo Station, which is usually crowded with people carting large bags at this time of year, was almost deserted, with many souvenir stores at the station closed. Most Shinkansen bullet train seats were vacant, and passengers at the station expressed their uneasiness.

"I'm worried about being in a sealed car during the trip," said a 17-year-old third-year high school student traveling to her parents' house in Hyogo Prefecture, in western Japan. She said she had brought an antiseptic solution with her to wipe the handrails on her seat.

The student moved to Tokyo to work in show business in January. While she thinks it might be better to refrain from returning to her hometown, she had purchased a train ticket before the state of emergency was issued by the national government on April 7. Her parents had told her, "Come back, as Tokyo is dangerous" because of the many infections reported in the capital. Her elderly grandparents live close to her parents' house, but mindful of their health amid calls for social distancing, she said, "I won't see them for a while. I want to stay at my parents' home as much as I can."

According to Central Japan Railway Co., the passenger load factor of non-reserved seats on Tokaido Shinkansen trains bound for west Japan is normally over 100% on the first day of the Golden Week period every year. However, the rate on April 25 stood at 10% or less.

A 65-year-old male part-time employee at a bento store in the station said, "I've worked in the station for more than 10 years, but this is the first time for me to see so few people during Golden Week."

(Japanese original by Buntaro Saito, City News Department)

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