Japan celebrates coming-of-age day despite virus surge

Published January 12, 2021
KAWASAKI (Japan): Twenty-year-old men and women, dressed in kimonos, gather outside an arena during a “coming-of-age day” ceremony on Monday.—AFP
KAWASAKI (Japan): Twenty-year-old men and women, dressed in kimonos, gather outside an arena during a “coming-of-age day” ceremony on Monday.—AFP

TOKYO: Young adults dressed to the nines in kimonos gathered at venues in Japan on Monday to celebrate reaching the age of majority, although many of the usually jubilant events were cancelled over virus fears.

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

They are traditionally feted each January on “coming-of-age day” with a formal ceremony, originally a rite of ancient samurai families — now often followed by raucous drinking sprees.

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

“I know there is a risk of infection, but I am here because it’s an event that you only experience once in your life, and it’s also a chance to meet friends who I haven’t seen for a long time,” student Naomi Ooba said at an event in Kawasaki, southwest of the capital.

“After the ceremony, I’m going to return straight home, but it’s a shame that we can’t go and eat with our friends, because of the virus,” said another 20-year-old student called Ayane Uchino.

Kawasaki and neigbouring Yokohama are included in the state of emergency, which is less strict than the harsh lockdowns seen in other countries.

At Yokohama Arena, women in ornate kimonos, fluffy white stoles and masks sat in socially distanced seating for the ceremony, with the men dressed mainly in suits.

The arena’s capacity was limited to 5,000, with four separate ceremonies held on Monday. Participants were told to keep their distance and speak quietly to avoid spreading the respiratory disease.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2021

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