The spread of the novel coronavirus has left many coming-of-age ceremonies scheduled for August postponed or canceled, ruining a key opportunity to celebrate a new chapter in life.
Coming-of-age ceremonies are usually held on Coming of Age Day in January, but some communities choose different times of year due to the cold winter climate and other reasons.
Many municipalities have decided to postpone or cancel ceremonies amid the spread of the virus, although a handful plan to go ahead while taking precautions against the disease.
In Iwate Prefecture, nine municipalities usually hold coming-of-age ceremonies during the Bon holiday period in mid-August to avoid the snowy season and make it easier for new adults to attend.
But the nine have canceled such events this year. In Iwate, no coronavirus case had been confirmed until the end of July, and only a few positives have been found so far.
“We looked hard for ways to hold the ceremony, but new virus confirmations in Iwate dealt the final blow,” said an official of the town of Hiraizumi.
Some 40 percent of the new adults eligible to participate in the town’s ceremony this year live outside the prefecture.
The municipal government is not sure what to do about the ceremony amid uncertainty over the coronavirus, the official said.
The government of Hachimantai, also in Iwate, decided to hold the city’s coming-of-age ceremony on Coming of Age Day next year, but the schedule could be changed again depending on the coronavirus situation.
“I can’t hide my shock,” a 20-year-old female resident of Niigata Prefecture working in the hospitality service industry wrote on Twitter.
The coming-of-age ceremony in her municipality, initially scheduled for May, was postponed to September and then to November, she said.
“I wanted to attend the ceremony while I was still 20 years old,” she said. “I’ll be 21 in November.”
While most municipalities in Nagano Prefecture, have postponed ceremonies to January next year or later, the village of Shimojo decided to hold a ceremony on the initially scheduled date.
But the village imposed the condition that some 20 new adults who had left the village produce negative results in coronavirus tests before joining the ceremony.
The testing costs are covered by the village. Nine living outside the prefecture are slated to attend the ceremony as they have tested negative.
“It’s easy to cancel the ceremony, but new adults would lose an important milestone in life,” said Yoshihiko Kushihara, the head of the local education board. “We’ve managed to realize the ceremony by taking various measures.”
But the attendance rate will be lower than in usual years. Some new adults eligible to participate decided to watch the ceremony online.
The village of Asahi in Nagano will also hold a ceremony, but those who left the village for work or study can only join the ceremony through the internet.
Using an online conference system, the village will stream the ceremony with help from a local cable television company. After the ceremony, the village will hold a party that can be attended online.
“We have no guarantee that we can hold the ceremony even if we postpone it,” an Asahi village official said. “We thought it’s important to renew old friendships and make connections.”