Travelers returning from New Year holidays crowded expressways and airports across Japan Monday as a decline in coronavirus infections toward the end of last year and progress in vaccinating the public unlocked pent-up travel demand.

According to All Nippon Airways Co., the number of seats reserved on domestic flights between Dec. 25 and Jan. 4 totaled 1.14 million, up about 50 percent from the same period a year ago.

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter shows the Tomei Expressway in Ebina in Kanagawa Prefecture, eastern Japan, on Jan. 3, 2022. Vehicles are stuck in a traffic jam on the expressway as many travelers head home after New Year holidays. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

A traffic jam on the Tomei Expressway linking Tokyo and central Japan cities stretched over 50 kilometers at one point, with backups of more than 10 km seen on other expressways across the country, the Japan Road Traffic Information Center said.

Shinkansen bullet trains were also packed across the country, according to railway firms.

A 20-year-old college student returning to Nagoya after seeing his family in Kyoto said he became worried about the Omicron strain of the coronavirus after seeing media reports on the recent gradual increase in daily cases in the country.

"I'm going to take another virus test now. I don't want to spread coronavirus to other people," he said.

In Tokyo, 103 daily coronavirus cases were confirmed on Monday, marking the first time in about three months that the count has surpassed 100.

A departure lobby of Fukuoka airport in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Fukuoka is crowded with travelers on Jan. 3, 2022, as many people head home after New Year holidays. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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