Hong Kong families, couples and friends pressed ahead with trips to Japan and South Korea on Thursday, despite a deadly cold spell in the region affecting the journey of those coming home. As the city celebrated its first Lunar New Year holiday without travel restrictions in three years, “once-in-a-decade” blizzards and freezing weather ripped through East Asia, causing mass transport shutdowns in both countries popular among Hong Kong tourists. The Travel Industry Council earlier said at least 200 Hong Kong travellers in Japan had already experienced delays or changes to their itineraries. Some residents returning from Japan to Hong Kong on Thursday told the Post the extreme weather had mainly affected transport in Osaka and Kyoto. However, the former’s Kansai airport was operating normally during the morning. “There was a slight delay in traffic in Osaka, but compared with Kyoto, Osaka was not greatly affected by the cold weather,” said Emily Lau, a 23-year-old arriving from Osaka. She added that some passengers were stuck at the airport on Wednesday. Keng Dung, a 60-year-old retiree, stayed in a hotel for two days as the cold weather hit Kyoto. “The last two days have been spent in hotels, but it doesn’t matter. We are getting older, so we go on holiday to relax,” said Dung, who also flew in from Osaka this morning. “There were no more planes [at Osaka] airport yesterday, the flights [to Hong Kong] were all cancelled. But today everything is back to normal, and Osaka is no longer snowy”. Travel chaos: South Korea, Japan gripped by extreme weather, widespread delays Despite the hiccups experienced by returning residents, the mood among those waiting to depart was buoyant. Some were looking forward to seeing snow as they had been trapped in the subtropical city for three years. “We are heading to Hokkaido for skiing, so it is not a bad thing to have some snow, and the weather is getting better,” said Francis Lo, a 30-year-old service industry worker. Lo and his girlfriend chose to catch an early morning flight to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, which has suffered some of the worst of the current weather. While it has stopped snowing in Sapporo, the minimum temperature for the coming week will remain below minus 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). ‘Once-in-a-decade’ blizzard freezes holiday plans for Hongkongers in Japan “To be honest, we did not consider the weather much,” said Lo’s girlfriend, Jennie Chu, a 29-year-old in the banking industry. “It has been three years since we could travel, so we are determined to do so no matter what happens. “We have even lost all memories of travelling … so we have to go for it.” Joe Chan, who works in sales in Hong Kong, also decided to head to Tokyo with his family despite the weather warning. “We have been closely monitoring the weather in Japan. It is mainly affecting northern Japan instead of Tokyo,” the 40-year-old father said. But Chan said he had some worries about transport because of the weather. 2 Hong Kong tourists injured in Japan after rental car crashes into tunnel wall Some Hong Kong travellers insisted on visiting Osaka and Kyoto. The snow seemed more like a blessing than a curse because of its southerly geographical location, they said. The region was one of the worst affected by the cold in Japan. The airports, undergrounds and railways were disrupted. “We paid attention to the weather in Japan, but to be honest, we are looking forward to seeing the snow in Kyoto and Osaka if it doesn’t affect the traffic,” said Wendy Chan, a 30-year-old government employee. Fanny Yeung Shuk-fan, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said it was important for travellers, especially those going alone, to check their flights despite the improvement in the weather. They should also have insurance to cover any delays, she added. Besides Japan, the cold weather has also affected South Korea, another hotspot for the city’s travellers. Japan has most powerful passport, Singapore is second. What about Hong Kong? Seoul will see temperatures drop below minus 10 degrees for the next three days, but the snow has stopped. Mary Lee, a 26-year-old office clerk, bought new jumpers, overcoats and a down jacket to face the “cold challenge” on her first trip with her family to Seoul since the pandemic began. “We bought these [warm] clothes specifically for our South Korea trip,” Lee said, “We haven’t seen snow for three years, so we were looking forward to seeing it in Seoul.” Unlike Japan, South Korea still requires people arriving from Hong Kong and mainland China to provide negative Covid-19 test results. But Lee said that compared with Japan, the flight to South Korea was cheaper and the entry measures were “smooth” as all the procedures could be done online.