• Kyodo

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With the rainy season over, Japan enters summer without its typical festival, fireworks and beach settings this year because of the novel coronavirus.

Shonan and other famous beaches in Kanagawa Prefecture are without huts or lifeguards as people have been advised to stay away as part of strict infection control measures.

An association representing around 40 beach hut operators in Zushi said some members cannot make ends meet without opening and that they are continuing to patrol and clean up because people are still visiting beaches that are not off-limits.

Even those visiting the beaches are taking proper pandemic measures, including social distancing and wearing masks.

“I missed the sun,” said a woman in her 70s in Fujisawa who was visiting a beach with her son and his family for the first time this year.

Wearing a mask and sunglasses, the woman said she enjoys watching her grandchild playing in the waves.

In Tohoku, the Omagari fireworks festival in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, which attracts 700,000 visitors every year, was canceled for the first time in 73 years, leaving many fireworks in stock.

“We hope to prepare our best work, hoping the festival will be held next year,” said Hibikiya Omagari Fireworks President Kentaro Saito, 40. The company had prepared 20,000 fireworks for this year’s event.

Kentaro Saito, president of Hibikiya Omagari Fireworks, with a stock of fireworks balls. | KYODO
Kentaro Saito, president of Hibikiya Omagari Fireworks, with a stock of fireworks balls. | KYODO

Other famous festivals have been canceled as well, including the Aomori Nebuta festival, in which large illuminated floats parade through the city, and the Sendai Tanabata Festival in Miyagi Prefecture, known for its hanging decorations.

In Fukuoka, ice makers are in shock from the cancellation of summer festivals and events at which shaved ice is widely sold.

“July and August are the best time for business, but I expect our sales this year to fall to 30 percent or less of the previous year’s levels,” said Osamu Maeda, 66.

The coronavirus pandemic has also forced changes to children’s summer vacation plans as many schools have shortened the breaks to make up for closures in spring requested under the government’s state of emergency declaration.

A group holding exercise events for children in Sapporo said it had decided not to ask elementary school students to participate because their breaks are limited.

The National High School Baseball Championship has also been called off following the cancellation of its spring tournament.

“I’ve never experienced a downturn like this,” said Hatsue Fujisaka, 78, who runs a restaurant near Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, where the finals are held.

Without many high school baseball players visiting the restaurant, her husband Etsuo, 81, said he feels sad, but added, “I’ll take care of my own health and keep working.”

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