The number of morning commuters in cities across Japan on weekdays was already down before the national emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic earlier this week, government data showed Friday.
There was an average 33 percent drop in the greater Tokyo area including Yokohama, and 18 percent fall in the Kansai region, the country's second largest metropolitan area in western Japan, between March 30 and April 3, according to the transport ministry.
The drop came as a growing number of people work remotely or avoid rush hour and commute at different times of the day.
The ministry calculated the number of people who passed through automatic ticket gates at major train stations across the country.
The number is expected to fall further as a number of department stores and shopping centers have also closed following the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday. The declaration covers the capital and six other prefectures in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
Subway operator Tokyo Metro Co. has said the number of passengers on Wednesday was down by 60 percent compared with April 8 the previous year.
The transport ministry began issuing announcements from Feb. 25 onboard trains and in stations urging people to work remotely in order to ease packed trains.
From Feb. 26 to 27, the use of trains at stations such as Tokyo, Shinjuku and Yokohama in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area fell 7 percent, while passengers at Osaka, Sannomiya and Kyoto stations in the Kansai area decreased 2 percent.
Crowd volume dropped further by 22 percent in the greater Tokyo area and 14 percent in the Kansai region between March 2 and 6, and by 25 and 16 percent in the two areas, respectively, from March 23 to 27, according to the ministry.
On March 25, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged people to refrain from going outside during the weekend, leading to a reduction in overall movement throughout the city.
The busiest section between Ueno and Okachimachi stations on Tokyo's busy Yamanote loop line saw a 40 percent decrease during its peak hours on weekdays -- between 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. -- from March 30 through April 3, compared to early February.
The section between Shin-Okubo and Shinjuku stations also dropped 36 percent.
Both sections fell 13 percent between Feb. 25 and 28, and 27 to 28 percent between March 23 and 27.