• Jiji


The spread of the novel coronavirus is changing summer traditions in Japan, with new forms of seasonal events emerging thanks to digital technologies.

Fireworks events and summer festivals are increasingly going digital. A service enables users to make a virtual visit to their ancestors’ graves.

The 2020 Sumida River Fireworks Festival, slated for July 11, was canceled in the 43rd year of the event, which draws nearly one million visitors annually.

But videos of fireworks in past festivals are projected onto windows of the observatory of the Tokyo Skytree tower, which stands near the venue of the fireworks event.

At the observatory 350 meters above the ground, visitors can see 360-degree views of fireworks in a special service until the end of this month.

An official of the tower’s management company expressed hope that the fireworks festival, originally an event to drive away bad illnesses, will be held next year.

Omatsuri Japan, a Tokyo-based company promoting regional revitalization through festivals, will hold an online event Saturday to allow participants to experience eight festivals, including dance festivals Awa Odori in the western city of Tokushima and Kiryu Yagibushi in the eastern prefecture of Gunma.

It will give dance lessons in cooperation with the organizers of the festivals and sell local food and sake through online platforms so participants can enjoy a festive mood.

Online festivals may appeal to those who do not like crowded places, not only to elderly people and parents with small children.

Such festivals “may prove useful” to communities struggling to continue local traditional festivals due a lack of participants and funds, said an Omatsuri Japan official.

This summer, many people are refraining from going to their hometowns to see relatives and visit ancestors’ graves amid the COVID-19 crisis.

A Tokyo-based group of some 300 stonemason companies across the country launched a virtual reality grave visit service on Aug. 1.

In the service, priced from ¥27,500, workers of member companies visit graves designated by customers and offer flowers and incense there.

The staff shoot videos of their visits with a 360-degree camera. The videos, along with VR goggles, are sent to the customers.

“We want to satisfy the wishes of those who want to hold a memorial service but can’t,” said an official of the group, known as Zenyuseki.

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