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Bullet train passengers return to Tokyo Station after travel restrictions lifted nationwide

Passengers at JR Tokyo Station are seen entering a bullet train heading towards Hakata in southwestern Japan as travel restrictions were lifted nationwide on June 19, 2020. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- Passengers began returning to Tokyo Station to board bullet trains on June 19, after the government's request to refrain from traveling between prefectures amid the novel coronavirus pandemic was lifted completely the same day.

Those heading across Japan on business trips and visits to their hometowns could be seen at the station from the morning. Station attendants thoroughly sanitized the area near the ticket gates of the Tokaido Shinkansen Line with alcohol disinfectants to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, focusing on the ticket vending machines and slots for inserting tickets.

One 59-year-old male construction company worker from the Chiba Prefecture city of Ichikawa who was heading toward Hiroshima in western Japan commented, "Business trips at my company were suspended during the state of emergency. I need to travel to regional areas as I'm a mentor for younger employees, so I'm grateful that the restrictions were lifted."

Rikuto Tazawa, 18, who recently started working as a steelmaker in the city of Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture, was going back to his hometown in the Iwate Prefecture city of Kuji in northeastern Japan for the first time since moving to the capital in March. "I'm looking forward to seeing my friends back home," he said.

A 59-year-old housewife whose parents' home is located in the city of Komaki, Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan, commented, "I have been waiting to return to my hometown since early March, and the lifting of travel bans was long-awaited. I wish to go visit my mother in the hospital."

According to Central Japan Railway Co., the number of passengers that used the Tokaido Shinkansen Line during this year's extended "Golden Week" holiday period from late April to early May was just 6% of the figure that recorded during the same period of the previous year. However, the number of passengers had recovered to 23% of the previous year's figure by June 17. The number of bullet trains in operation has also reportedly recovered to 80% of the number that were operating at the same time last year.

Even after the state of emergency was lifted nationwide on May 25, the Japanese government had requested that residents refrain from moving between the heavily affected five prefectures -- Tokyo, Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama -- and other prefectures, as well as from traveling across prefectures for tourism. Eateries involved in serving customers, including nightclubs and live music clubs, can now resume business, and sports events that involve moving to locations across Japan, such as pro baseball games, can also be held from June 19, on condition that no spectators are present. (Japanese original by Yuka Narita, City News Department)

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