• Kyodo

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Chiefs of local governments in central Japan on Monday condemned the organizer of a hip-hop music event held the previous day in Aichi Prefecture for its lax COVID-19 measures despite a pledge to follow the anti-infection guidelines set by the live concert industry.

According to the Aichi prefectural government, about 8,000 tickets had been sold for the event, Namimonogatari2021, held at a convention center in Tokoname, which its organizer says is one of the largest outdoor music events in Japan, bringing together hip-hop and R&B artists.

“No social distancing was observed near the stage, and some alcoholic beverages were sold at the venue. It is extremely regrettable that our safety requests were not followed,” Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said in a press conference.

The prefectural government began implementing business restrictions on Aug. 8, including a request for large event organizers to refrain from selling alcohol. Tightened restrictions under the state of emergency declared for the entire prefecture on Friday set an audience cap for large events at 5,000.

The event’s organizer, Office Keef Co. based in Nagoya, says the annual music event has been held since 2005. Under event guidelines posted on its website, attendees were asked to wear masks, stay at least a meter from each other and refrain from shouting. The company originally planned to sell 10,000 tickets for this year’s event.

Namimonogatari2021 in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, on Sunday (blurring added by Kyodo) | COURTESY OF CBC TV 'CHANTO!' / VIA KYODO
Namimonogatari2021 in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, on Sunday (blurring added by Kyodo) | COURTESY OF CBC TV ‘CHANTO!’ / VIA KYODO

Omura said the prefectural government will protest against the organizer’s failure to implement anti-infection measures and that it will no longer allow the company to use any of the prefecture’s public facilities.

Aichi officials later said a letter of protest has been sent to the company, requesting it to report on how COVID-19 measures were taken at the venue.

The organizer issued a statement saying audience members did not observe social distancing despite repeatedly being reminded about anti-infection guidelines via the main display screen and speakers.

At one point, a host of the event cautioned people against removing their masks, it said.

The company said the preparations to implement COVID-19 measures at such a large event should have been better and it “deeply apologizes for causing trouble.”

As for alcohol sales, the organizer said it reported to the prefecture in advance that some beverages it had already bought from suppliers would be sold during the event, with sales limited to two servings per person.

Tokoname Mayor Tatsuya Ito said during Monday’s session of the city assembly that he will also send a letter of protest to the event’s organizer.

“It was an extremely pernicious event in which none of the safety guidelines were followed,” Ito said.

Japanese hip-hop artist Zeebra, who performed at the event, said in a Twitter post, “I performed at yesterday’s Namimonogatari because I was told that rules set by the prefectural government will be followed (at the venue), but it was a dangerous environment.”

Japan has been grappling to control a rapid spike in coronavirus infections, with 21 of the country’s 47 prefectures currently under a COVID-19 state of emergency.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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