National

Pandemic prompts Japan to downsize WWII anniversary ceremony

JIJI

The government is considering scaling down this year’s Aug. 15 ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in order to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading, informed sources have said.

The government-sponsored annual ceremony is usually attended by about 6,000 people, including Japan’s emperor and empress, and the prime minister, as well as relatives of the war dead.

The ceremony, held at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward usually last about an hour and involves speeches by the emperor and the prime minister.

For this year’s ceremony, the government is considering reducing the total number of participants and the number of people who will pay floral tributes, the sources said Friday.

With many aging bereaved relatives, the government sees a need to downsize the upcoming ceremony, according to the sources, as the elderly are at higher risk of more severe symptoms from the coronavirus.

A total of 6,497 people, including 4,989 bereaved relatives from around the country, Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, attended last year’s ceremony to remember some 3.1 million victims of the conflict.

The oldest among the participating relatives was a 97-year-old woman, whose husband died in the Battle of Okinawa, a fierce ground battle in the war’s final phase.

Last year’s ceremony was the first since the beginning of the Reiwa Era on May 1 of that year, when Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne.

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