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TOKYO — Crowded trains, jammed highways and long lines at airports.

That’s what travelers can expect during Golden Week, a series of holidays that kicked off Thursday and runs through May 9.

Approximately 70 million people traveled to leisure and sightseeing spots in Japan last year, according to the National Police Agency.

Like last year, tollway discounts apply to cars equipped with the Electronic Toll Collection System.

The peak travel times are expected to be between Saturday and Monday for outbound traffic near major cities and Monday and Tuesday for those returning, according to a Nippon Expressway Company news release.

A popular place to visit in Japan this year is Nara city in western Japan, which is hosting several events in remembrance of the period in the sixth century when it was the capital of Japan. Traffic also will be heavy in historic Nagasaki and Kochi cities, according to JTB Corp., a major travel agency.

In the Tokyo area, vacationers should expect the Tokyo Disney Resort to draw huge crowds. Close to 1 million people visited the resort during last year’s Golden Week, according to police officials.

For those taking bullet trains — or shinkansen — most reserved seats were sold by April 15, according to Central Japan Railway Company. The peak travel day on shinkansen is expected to be Saturday for outbound traffic and Wednesday for inbound, according to the railway company.

Since the individual holidays are spread out more during Golden Week this year, more people are likely to extend vacations so they can travel overseas, according to JTB Corp. It estimated that the number of those traveling overseas will exceed 500,000 for the first time in three years.

"The exchange rate is stable, and yen has been strong. And the increase in fuel charges, which started in April, has not had much effect," the agency said in a news release.

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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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