Photo/Illutration Workers check license plates of vehicles bound for the city center near an expressway exit in Nagano on April 25. A sign says, "We are asking people to refrain from visiting here." (The Asahi Shimbun)

I was enticed into reading a book by its title, “I want to go somewhere, no matter where it is.”

The author, a blogger known as pha, is no ordinary traveler.

He goes on a trip by using intercity bus services and a special Japan Railway group discount ticket known as “Seishun 18” (Youth 18).

He does nothing special at his destinations. He spends time reading books and checking his smartphone in a fast food restaurant.

The author says the point is how far he feels away from his daily life. That feeling depends on how long he spends traveling: one, three or six hours.

When he decides it is too late to return home and he must stay there, this travel buff spends the night at a manga cafe or business hotel.

During a slow, long train ride, we can observe how the language spoken by passengers gradually changes over different regions.

Such modest pleasure seems like a tremendous luxury at the start of this year’s holiday-studded Golden Week.

Shinkansens departing from Tokyo on April 25 were almost empty, and some ran without a single passenger in non-reserved seats, according to JR companies.

It is extremely sad to learn that a roadside survey was conducted in Nagano Prefecture to determine which cars were from outside the prefecture.

This year, no one can say, “Welcome to our prefecture.”

Humankind has been defined in many ways from ancient times. To cite a few examples, humans are creatures that stand upright on two legs, think and laugh.

I want to emphasize that humans are also traveling beings.

We all appear to have wanderlust inside us, with or without a purpose.

That is perhaps why mankind traveled out of Africa to other parts of the world and invented the train and the aircraft.

The day will definitely come when we can pursue our natural longing for travel again. For now, however, we have to keep this instinct in check to ensure that day will arrive as soon as possible.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 26

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.