What was meant to be a fun trip to Tokyo turned into a horrific tragedy.
Those who survived Sunday morning's bus crash on the Kanetsu Expressway - the second day of the Golden Week holiday period - recalled the disaster, while relatives of those killed are torn with grief, crying for the return of their loved ones.
Seven passengers aboard the chartered bus were killed and 39 people, including the driver, were injured in the accident that occurred on the expressway in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture.
"About 10 minutes before the accident, the bus started weaving from side to side. As I was wondering if the driver was dozing, the bus crashed," a female passenger hospitalized in Fujioka told a 23-year-old male friend who was visiting her there.
According to the man, the woman also described the left-hand side of the bus as wrecked, saying she was seated on the right side--the same as the driver--and only broke her nose.
Yukari Kizawa of Kanazawa was aboard the bus with three family members. Her husband, Masahiro, was pronounced dead following the accident.
Yukari called her parents from the crash site at about 5 a.m., roughly 20 minutes after the accident.
"I had no idea what happened at the time of the crash as I was asleep," her brother-in-law, who rushed to the hospital, quoted her as saying. Many of the passengers were asleep when the bus crashed.
With a noise-blocking wall on the expressway slicing down the middle of the bus, the vehicle came to rest with its left side outside the wall.
Many of those who died were seated on the left side.
Some of the windows on the right side were damaged, and glass fragments were scattered around the site.
After the crash, passengers were trapped inside the bus as the windows and doors could not be opened.
Rescue workers had to smash several windows to help the passengers by pulling them out one by one, according to another passenger's acquaintance who visited her at the hospital.
The visitor said: "I was stunned when I first saw her face covered with blood from a cut on her head. But I was relieved to see she was conscious."