TOKYO — If you plan to travel in Japan over the next couple of weeks, expect company. Lots of it.

Golden Week, a series of holidays that will run through May 10, is a time of crowded trains, jammed highways and long lines at airports.

Officials predict more people will vacation in Japan and travel abroad this year as compared to recent years. The National Police Agency expects 70.5 million people to travel to leisure and sightseeing spots within Japan, 5.44 million more than last year, according an agency news release.

With new highway discounts for cars equipped with the Electronic Toll Collection System coupled with cheaper gas prices, a lot more drivers will be on the roads, officials expect.

The peaks are expected to be May 2 for outbound traffic near major cities, and May 5 for those returning, according to a Nippon Expressway Company news release. NEXCO officials are warning drivers to expect long traffic jams, predicting some to exceed 30 miles long.

The place expecting the most visitors is the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival in Aomori Prefecture. The festival was expected to attract about 2.2 million visitors between Saturday and May 5.

In the Tokyo area, about 980,000 people are expected to visit Tokyo Disney Resort from now to May 6, police officials estimate.

Bullet trains are also expected to be crowded, with peak departures from the Tokyo area on May 2 and for returns on May 5, according to East Japan Railway Company.

Airports are expected to be more crowded as well, with a major travel agency, JTB Corp., predicting an increase in overseas travel.

The number of people traveling overseas this year has increased for the first time since 2006, according to a bureau news release. It estimates about 500,000 will travel to popular destinations such as Hawaii, Europe, Australia and China.

"Overseas travel during Golden Week is largely influenced by the circumstances such as the economy and the days that the holidays fall on," the release stated. "This year, there seem to be more advantages for overseas travelers, such as decrease of fuel surcharges, stronger yen and cheaper traveling fees, although the country is going through an economic slump."

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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