Photo/Illutration Snow plows lead vehicles that have been stuck near the Tsuchiyama Service Area on the Shin-Meishin Expressway in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, at 10:28 a.m. on Jan. 26. (Shiro Nishihata)

More than a day after it started, a 28-kilometer vehicle backup on the snow-covered Shin-Meishin Expressway near the prefectural border between Shiga and Mie ended on the morning of Jan. 26.

Traffic started moving at around 8:05 a.m., a Central Nippon Expressway Co. official said, after being stopped for 28 hours and 15 minutes. 

“It was too much,” said a professional wrestler who ended up pinned in the traffic jam.

The traffic jam started at several locations on the 28-kilometer stretch on the expressway, between the Komono Interchange and the Koka-Tsuchiyama Interchange, at around 3:50 a.m. on Jan. 25, the company official said.

The 29-year-old wrestler, who belongs to a group of professional wrestlers based in Kobe, left from Nagoya, where a show was being held, to return to Kobe during the early morning of Jan. 25 with five fellow wrestlers.

But the traffic completely stopped when their car was traveling through a tunnel after passing the Suzuka parking area.

“I thought it would be resolved in one or two hours,” he said.

The group slept in the car and woke up, slept and woke up again only to find nothing had changed.

He said the car was stuck in the tunnel for 16 hours.

The wrestler turned the car off to save gas and left the windows open for ventilation, he said.

The vehicle was surrounded by trucks, however, and fumes from their exhaust made him feel sick.

He said the wrestlers had small portions of food and drinks, but they held back on drinking liquids so they wouldn’t need to use a bathroom.

Ten hours in, staff of Central Nippon Expressway Co. came to deliver water and portable latrines.

When the traffic finally started moving, the group shouted with delight. However, traffic soon went through repetitions of starting and stopping, he said.

They arrived in Kobe shortly before the clock struck midnight. The wrestler said his back and knees hurt after sitting in the car for so long.

“I made it back alive,” he said.