As with everything in the age of coronavirus, things are a little different this year.

With the holidays over and people returning to their homes after being with family over the New Year, it’s no surprise that coronavirus cases have been spiking recently, especially in Tokyo. Though the numbers are low compared to the U.S. and Europe, the spike was alarming enough to prompt the government to issue a second state of emergency for the city.

This time around the restrictions are much looser than the first lockdown in April, but many organizations are still taking it seriously. Unfortunately, that means that the most popular start-of-the-year event for 20-year-olds in the city, the Coming of Age Ceremonies, are changing form, being postponed, or being cancelled altogether.

Coming of Age Ceremonies celebrate the young adults who are turning 20, which is the age of adulthood in Japan, and typically occur on the second Monday in January. Since it’s generally a formal ceremony filled with speeches by city officials and sometimes performances by local groups (though some places get a little bit wild before and after the event), young women often dress in kimono and get their hair and makeup done, while young men wear suits and ties. It’s also a chance to reunite with your high school classmates and see how everyone’s changed since graduation, which is something a lot of participants look forward to.

This year, however, the ceremonies are looking a little different, since having hundreds of people gathering in a closed-in stadium or auditorium would be a recipe for the rapid spread of COVID-19. Though they had originally made plans to hold their events with precautions in place, many cities within Tokyo have opted to cancel or postpone their ceremonies in order to eliminate the risk of a super-spreader gathering.

Some cities of Tokyo, like Mitaka City, which had planned to hold their ceremony at the Ghibli Museum for the first time, opted to go digital with their events. Mitaka, along with Taito City, has announced that they’ll upload mayoral and keynote speeches and congratulatory messages to YouTube or to the city’s official website. Katsushika City, also, will hold the ceremony in an empty auditorium, to be recorded and and uploaded to the city’s homepage.

Netizens’ responses to the news of cancellations and digitization included everything from disappointment to disinterest:

“It’s unnecessary anyway.”
“Is the Coming of Age Ceremony really that important? I didn’t go so I have no idea (laughing emoji)”
“…I heard that the real reason it was cancelled was because they were worried that too many coming-of-agers would go on a drunken revelry afterwards.”
“I feel bad for the young adults because they’ve probably been looking forward to seeing how all their classmates changed.”
“It’s sad to lose the ceremonies like the one at Tokyo Disney Resort where it becomes an unconventional event, but I think we can do without the ones in the countryside where a few people gather in the town square.”
“I’m curious to see what the view numbers will be like for those videos.”
“I’m antisocial but I was still kind of looking forward to it so now I’m sad.”

Not all Coming of Age Ceremonies are being cancelled or becoming socially distant, however, even in Tokyo. Shinjuku Ward mayor Kenichi Yoshizumi announced on TV that he intends for Shinjuku’s ceremonies to happen, with precautions taken of course, in spite of high case numbers in the area, because “infection rates for people in their teens is relatively low, so there’s little risk of it spreading among 19 and 20-year-olds”.

▼ People are also free to do the customary Coming-of-Age photoshoot as well, if they desire.

In other areas of Japan, where a state of emergency isn’t yet in effect, many ceremonies are still being planned with some extra precautions. For example, the famous Kita-Kyushu ceremony, where attendees are the most creative with their “formal” dress, are scheduled to happen, with two ceremonies instead of one to divide the number of attendees so as to avoid having too many people gathered in one area.

Though like many events in the age of coronavirus, the Coming of Age Ceremonies are looking a little bit different this year, at least new adults are having the chance to commemorate their emergence into adulthood in some ways, even if it’s not the most traditional of ways.

Source: Sankei News, Ghibli Unofficial Fansite, Twitter/@Sankei_news, livedoor news
Top image: Pakutaso

Insert image: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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