Japan’s summer season transformed by coronavirus

Aug 02 , 2020. 20 hours ago – 14:25 KYODO NEWS

Photo taken Aug. 1, 2020 shows a warning sign in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, that beaches are not open for swimming. (Kyodo)

TOKYO – As the rainy season ends, Japan is entering summer without its typical scenes of festivals, fireworks and open beaches this year as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the country.

Shonan and other famous beaches in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, are without huts or lifeguards as people have been advised to stay away amid strict coronavirus control measures.

An association representing around 40 beach hut operators in Zushi in the prefecture said some members cannot make ends meet without opening their huts, while they continue to patrol and clean up as people are still visiting beaches that are not off-limits.

Even those visiting beaches are taking anti-virus measures, including maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks.

“I missed the Sun,” said a woman in her 70s living in Fujisawa as she visited a beach in the Kanagawa Prefecture city with her son and his family for the first time this year.

Wearing a face mask and sunglasses, the woman said she enjoys watching her grandchild playing in the waves.

In northeastern Japan, the Omagari firework festival in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, which attracts 700,000 visitors every year, was canceled for the first time in 73 years, leaving many firework balls in stock.

“We hope to prepare our best work, hoping the festival will be held next year,” said Kentaro Saito, 40, president of Hibikiya Omagari Fireworks, which had prepared 20,000 firework balls for the event.

Other famous festivals have been canceled, including the Aomori Nebuta festival, in which large illuminated floats parade in the city of Aomori, and the Sendai Tanabata Festival in Miyagi Prefecture, known for its hanging decorations.

In Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, ice makers have suffered a blow from the cancellation of summer festivals and events in which shaved ice is widely sold.

“July and August are the best time for business, but I expect our sales this year to fall to 30 percent or less of the previous year’s levels,” said Osamu Maeda, 66.

The coronavirus pandemic has also forced changes to children’s summer vacation plans as many schools have shortened summer breaks to make up for closures in spring under a state of emergency.

A group holding exercise events for children in Sapporo, Hokkaido, said it had decided not to ask elementary school students to participate as their breaks are limited.

Japan’s National High School Baseball Championship this summer has been called off following the cancellation of its spring tournament.

“I’ve never experienced a downturn like this,” said Hatsue Fujisaka, 78, who runs a restaurant near Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, where the finals are held.

Without many high school baseball players visiting the restaurant, her husband Etsuo, 81, said he feels sad, but added, “I’ll take care of my own health and keep working.”

CR:KYODO NEWS