Rare eclipse delivers spectacle despite cloudy weather

Perfect glowing ring thrills millions nationwide

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Monday’s rare annular eclipse wowed millions nationwide as they looked up in the morning sky to witness the astronomical event.

Events were held at schools, along waterfronts, at zoos, parks and rooftops to witness the point when the moon passed in front of the sun, leaving a perfect fiery ring, or annulus. The media were well-positioned to capture the event as it made its way across Japan, as well as the festivities it generated.

The brief, bright annulus could be seen along much of the Pacific coast, including from Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo, but was not visible in northern Tohoku or Hokkaido.

The eclipse started a little after 6 a.m., with the ring forming at 7:20 a.m. in Kyushu and around 7:35 a.m. in Tokyo. It lasted only a few minutes.

Although Okinawa experienced an annular eclipse 25 years ago, Monday’s event was the first time in 932 years that the phenomenon could be observed across a broad swath of Japan.

Tokyo had to wait 173 years.

The Odaiba district, a man-made extension of land jutting into Tokyo Bay, was considered a good observing spot because it was situated under the central path of the eclipse.

Just before 7 a.m., hundreds of people with special viewing glasses converged on the newly opened Diver City Tokyo Plaza shopping mall, where a huge statue of the robot Gundam stands.

Dozens of photographers were poised at their tripods to shoot the event.

Many people actually appeared a bit concerned because clouds periodically obscured the sun. Fortunately, the eclipse could still be observed through the clouds, which at times even parted.

While the peak was around 7:35 a.m. and the fiery solar ring was visible through the gray clouds, the observers at Odaiba continued to watch the sky through their colorful eclipse glasses and were awed.

“It was great that the sun came out. . . . It was beautiful and worth coming to see,” said Fumie Maeda, who is in her 40s and came all the way from Toyama Prefecture to witness the event.

Toyama is out of the observation path for the annular eclipse, so she visited her sister in Tokyo to view it because “this is maybe a once-in-a-lifetime event,” she said.

Shigeru Seo, 60, who along with his wife and hundreds of others viewed the event from Cape Shiono on the southern tip of Wakayama Prefecture, said he saw the annulus for about 10 seconds through wisps of clouds. “It looked like a ring and I remembered proposing to my wife a long time ago,” he said.

Many schools also held observing events involving students and teachers.

Mori Tower, part of Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills complex, held a rooftop viewing with some 200 people. Zoos meanwhile opened early so patrons could watch the eclipse and observe how animals reacted to it.

The next annular eclipse in Japan will be viewable in Hokkaido in 2030. Tokyo won’t see another one for a few hundred years.

The moon orbits the Earth on an elliptical path, so depending on the distance from the planet, the level of the eclipse changes.

When it is far from Earth, the moon can’t fully cover the sun, which is why an annular eclipse takes place.

According to media reports, there were areas that could not observe the annular eclipse because they were overcast. Although Hokkaido and other regions were outside the best viewing areas, a partial eclipse could still be seen.

Information from Kyodo added