Travelers flooded airports and train stations in Tokyo and other cities in Japan on Friday to head to their hometowns in the first summer holiday season since the legal status of COVID-19 was downgraded to the same category as seasonal flu.

Travelers lined up for security checks at Haneda airport in Tokyo, but some were concerned about a powerful incoming typhoon that is expected to bring stormy weather from around Monday to the country's eastern and western regions.

Photo taken on the morning of Aug. 11, 2023, shows a crowded shinkansen platform at JR Shin-Osaka Station during the Obon summer holiday period. (Kyodo)

"Because the coronavirus pandemic has settled down, we can have a gathering with our relatives," said Yusuke Tada, 44, who was heading to Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan from Chiba Prefecture with four other family members.

"But we may return earlier than planned depending on the typhoon," he added.

JR Tokyo Station's shinkansen platform was crowded from the morning onward, with many people carrying large suitcases.

The Bon holiday period in mid-August is one of Japan's main vacation seasons.

Reserved seats for the week beginning this Thursday were up 1.5 times from a year earlier on local and bullet trains to 2.7 million, or 92 percent of the level seen in 2018 before the global outbreak of the coronavirus, according to figures released late last month by Japan Railway companies.

Reservations for domestic flights were also 1.2 times higher to 3.7 million, while those for international flights doubled to 556,000.

In May this year, the government downgraded the legal status of COVID-19 to the same category as seasonal influenza and greatly relaxed health restrictions, marking a major shift in approach after three years of dealing with the coronavirus.

Rules on face masks were lifted in March, leaving the decision about whether to wear one in public up to individuals.

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