Thousands of people gather for Japan’s Day of Majority despite virus rise

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Tokyo (AFP)

Newly dressed young adults in kimonos gathered at venues in Japan on Monday to celebrate the age of majority, though many generally jubilant events were called off over fears of coronavirus.

More than one million people in Japan will turn 20 this year, the age at which they can legally drink alcohol, smoke and marry without parental approval.

They are traditionally celebrated every January on “Majority Day” with an official ceremony, originally a rite of ancient samurai families – and now often followed by loud drinking binges.

But a record increase in Covid-19 cases and a declared month-long viral state of emergency in and around Tokyo has led many local authorities to abandon or postpone the 2021 festivities.

At Yokohama Arena – in the state of emergency area, which is less stringent than the severe lockdowns seen in other countries – women dressed in ornate kimonos, fluffy white stoles and masks sat in socially remote headquarters for the ceremony, with the men. mainly dressed in costumes.

“I was worried… but I decided to come because it will be the only chance of my life to wear a kimono (for this ceremony),” a woman at the event told TBS.

The arena’s capacity was limited to 5,000, with four separate ceremonies held both there and at another location in Yokohama on Monday. Participants were told to keep their distance and speak calmly to avoid spreading respiratory disease.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged young people to respect the state of emergency, which asks residents to avoid non-essential outings and asks restaurants and bars to close early.

Last week, he said more than half of recent new infections in greater Tokyo were among those under 30.

The fishing town of Yaizu, in central Japan, hosted a drive-in event on coming of age on Sunday, attracting some 470 vehicles to the port celebration.

“We are sad to miss a chance to meet as friends, but I am happy to see the event unfold anyway,” a 20-year-old man in Yaizu told Sankei Shimbun.

Tama, in western Tokyo, held an online ceremony for residents entering adulthood.

Before the event, the mayor apologized to attendees saying, “I’m sorry… but it is true that infections are spreading. As an adult, please accept this. ”

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