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Japan braces for mass travel during Golden Week holidays

Japanese holidaymakers were gearing up Friday for a jumble of public holidays when an estimated 22.4 million travellers are expected to collectively spend $8.5 billion.

TOKYO: Japanese holidaymakers were gearing up Friday for a jumble of public holidays when an estimated 22.4 million travellers are expected to collectively spend $8.5 billion.

Appetite for travel during the so-called "Golden Week" holidays appears undiminished, a study by JTB Corp, Japan's biggest travel agency said, despite a consumption tax hike and a general inclination to save money amid a still-fragile economy.

"This is a great season to travel. Our analysis shows that there are more people making shorter trips this year, rather than long travels, because of the way holidays are aligned," a JTB spokeswoman said.

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to cram airports from Friday afternoon to jet off to holiday hotspots at home and abroad, while major highways were expected to see bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Golden Week is a series of national holidays that are clustered in late April through early May.

In some years, the public holidays and weekends can align to form a week-long vacation for Japan's famously diligent workers.

This year offers a four-day weekend from Saturday, and follows a holiday on Tuesday, April 29.

But major manufacturers such as automakers and electronics firms have decided to close their factories for as long as 10 straight days between Saturday, April 26 through Tuesday, May 6.

JTB said it expects 22.4 million people to go away for at least one overnight stay, including 474,000 people who will go abroad.

The expected number of holidaymakers would mark a fall of 3.8 per cent from the same period last year, JTB said, when the holidays formed three-day and four-day weekends, with many firms opting to close for the three business days in between.

The yen's relative weakness since last year and Japan's diplomatic friction with China and South Korea were discouraging some people from travelling abroad this year, JTB added.

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