Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Golden Week + Discounted High Way Fees = Traffic Jams

We are now in the middle of Golden Week, one of the major holidays in Japan. It is actually number one or number two, fighting with New Year's for the prime spot.

So what do Japanese people during Golden Week? Of course many things, but one thing that almost every Japanese citizen do is travelling. Usually to the place "where they came from", which is usually where their parents live or even where their parents used to live. This means that roads, trains and flights are rather full. Now, if you are flying this is not really that big of a problem since planes can't be more than full (no standing options as far as I know), but as for train, these are usually a little more than crowded meaning a good chance or risk depending upon how you see it of having to stand for as long as the train ride is. Still both the train and the flight usually takes you to your destination in time especially here in Japan. Going by road is a whole different story though.

Roads are crammed with lorries, buses, motorcycles and passenger cars. On top of this the Japanese government in an effort to kick-start the Japanese economy decided to lower the high way fees quite drastically to in principle 1,000 yen. It could have been ten times that before. Well, it is not difficult to understand that even more vehicles will be on the road during Golden Week, resulting in even bigger and longer traffic jams. Just ask me, a ride from Nagano to Tokyo yesterday took seven hours instead of 3h40min. Add to this that the delay led to us arriving at Ikebukuro station at around midnight. In this country of no-public-transportation-during-night it meant that we couldn't get home.

Now, we were/are lucky that a friend doesn't live too far from Ikebukuro station, and that we could stay with him, but having spent seven hours on a bus, having woken up at 05h30 to go hiking after having spent the previous night drinking a fair amount of alcohol together with two 60-year-old Japanese gentlemen, I think you, dear reader, understand that one does indeed want to go home and sleep in one's own bed/futon.

Other than that, Nagano was good. Lots of long walks and nice food.

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