Coming-of-age festival muted

TOKYO (AGENCY) – The Japanese government started preparations to expand a state of emergency to the western Japanese prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, Jiji news agency reported yesterday.

The three prefectures on Saturday asked the government for expansion of the state of emergency, already in place for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, to include their region in an effort to contain the latest Covid-19 outbreak.

And the Covid-19 shadow also dampened Japan’s national holiday yesterday.

Across the nation, 1.24 million young people celebrated becoming an adult yesterday, Coming of Age Day, in an annual rite of passage for 20-year-olds that – were it not for the novel coronavirus pandemic – would have been celebrated in style with childhood reunions and parties, according to Japan Times.

But young women in colourful traditional costumes, masks and white stoles braved cold weather in lines and sat seats apart from one another in Yokohama yesterday to mark Japan’s Coming of Age Day, even though the city is under a state of emergency.

Twenty-year-old women dressed in kimonos gather outside Todoroki Arena during the ‘Coming-of-Age Day’ celebration ceremony in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture under a state of emergency. PHOTOS: AFP
ABOVE & BELOW: Twenty-year-old men and women leave Todoroki Arena during the ‘Coming-of-Age Day’ celebration ceremony in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture; and 20-year-old Japanese men pose during the celebration

The ceremonies, typically full of kimono-clad women and smartly-dressed men, were cancelled in many cities and parties were discouraged to stem a rise in Covid-19 infections.

While many coming-of-age ceremonies were cancelled or moved online, thousands gathered in Yokohama on the day to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime occasion despite inevitable criticism and potential exposure to the virus.

The government last week declared a state of emergency for the capital and three surrounding prefectures.

Yokohama city, south of Tokyo, went ahead with celebrations at Pacifico Yokohama North convention hall and Yokohama Arena event hall. “I decided to carry out today’s ceremonies as I strongly hoped everyone takes part in celebrating this once-in-a-lifetime milestone,” said Mayor Fumiko Hayashi, in a message read out to attendees who had to abide with anti- infection measures.

Participants wore face masks, had their temperature checks and were asked just to listen to the national anthem, instead of singing it out loud.

Japan has seen coronavirus cases total around 289,000, with 4,067 fatalities, according to public broadcaster NHK.