National

Defying virus warnings, crowds take to Japan's beaches and mountains

KYODO

Some leisure spots near Tokyo have seen crowds of visitors recently despite government instructions to stay home amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, prompting local residents and municipalities to voice concerns about further potential spread of the virus.

Although it was a weekday, a beach near Enoshima island in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, drew about 100 surfers on Wednesday morning, with many of the cars in parking lots showing license plates from Tokyo and other prefectures.

A 64-year-old local resident said that the previous weekend the popular beach was as packed with families and couples as it normally is in the summer, while young people gathered in local restaurants.

“Maybe they think it would not be serious if they are infected (with the coronavirus). But they should also think of the risk of infecting elderly people,” he said.

After receiving more than 200 complaints about the huge crowd of tourists and traffic jams, the city issued a joint statement on Wednesday along with other entities such as a local chamber of commerce, urging people to refrain from sightseeing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Along with 10 municipalities, Fujisawa also submitted a petition to the Kanagawa Prefectural Government calling for the closure of roads near the beach.

“It was a tough decision as a sightseeing city,” Fujisawa Mayor Tsuneo Suzuki told a news conference.

People have also flocked to mountainous tourist spots for recreation rather than strictly observing stay-at-home guidance during the pandemic.

Mount Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture has drawn crowds of visitors, including many people from outside the prefecture.

Following complaints about the number of tourists, the Tsukuba city government shut down the destination’s parking lots from Wednesday.

One lot near the mountain drew around 600 cars on a Sunday earlier this month. Even on weekdays, about 100 cars are parked there, the prefectural government operating the facility said.

According to local officials, some visitors with picnic lunches failed to keep a safe distance away from others so as to avoid virus infection. Additionally, some visitors did not wear face masks.

Takashi Kawashima, secretary general of the Japan Workers’ Alpine Federation, said he has received reports that the mountain was crowded with many people from outside the prefecture.

Keiichi Shinozaki, 70, visited Mount Tsukuba from Gunma Prefecture with his friend.

“I was surprised to encounter so many people on the trails,” he said. “Normally I avoid crowds and refrain from going out, but sometimes I want to exercise.”

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