• Kyodo

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Many new recruits at public offices, companies and other organizations in Japan started work Thursday, with events marking their first day at work largely held online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year many entrance ceremonies marking the start of the new business year were canceled due to the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. But many employers resumed the seasonal events this year, while avoiding large-scale gatherings by downscaling them or adopting virtual participation.

Businesses hit hard by the pandemic have sharply cut the number of new recruits hired. According to the education ministry, the percentage of new university graduates who had secured jobs as of Feb. 1 stood at 89.5%, down 2.8 points from a year earlier.

In Tokyo, the host of the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games set to be held this summer, only four new recruits attended the entrance ceremony held by the metropolitan government, with some 1,700 others participating virtually via the internet.

“(Together) we will overcome the unprecedented battle against the virus to open up a bright future, and to lead the Olympics and Paralympics to success,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said to the four representatives of the new recruits at the metropolitan government building.

Saki Sawayama, 22, one of the four, said after the event, “I would like to interact with colleagues remotely or via other means as much as possible” because welcome parties for new recruits will likely not be held this year in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike hands out a letter of appointment to a new recruit at a welcome ceremony for new employees at the metropolitan government office on Thursday. | KYODO
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike hands out a letter of appointment to a new recruit at a welcome ceremony for new employees at the metropolitan government office on Thursday. | KYODO

The Osaka Prefectural Government held entrance ceremonies for new recruits at a number of venues. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura told them in a pre-recorded video message, “I want you to work hard to protect the lives of the citizens in the prefecture.”

Drugmaker Shionogi & Co., which is developing a COVID-19 vaccine, held a welcome ceremony for 98 new recruits who had undergone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the virus.

“There is a great deal of trust in Japanese products,” President Isao Teshirogi said at a ceremony held at the firm’s research center in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, urging the new recruits to place the highest importance on developing quality products.

Trading house Itochu Corp. in Tokyo canceled its ceremony for new recruits for the second straight year, but put on a display of cherry blossoms in full bloom in the lobby of its Tokyo head office to welcome the recruits as they passed through on the way to their new offices.

Itochu Chairman and CEO Masahiro Okafuji was there to welcome them and some of the company’s officials posted abroad gave the new recruits a round of applause and offered congratulatory messages via a large monitor installed there.

A new recruit arrives for her first day of work at Itochu Corp. as Chairman and CEO Masahiro Okafuji and others welcome her at the entrance of the company's head office in Tokyo. | KYODO
A new recruit arrives for her first day of work at Itochu Corp. as Chairman and CEO Masahiro Okafuji and others welcome her at the entrance of the company’s head office in Tokyo. | KYODO

Toyota Motor Corp., which also canceled a ceremony last year, held a special event this year for 1,045 new recruits, linking 150 locations online. President Akio Toyoda told them to be “challengers” and become “the driving force of innovations by cherishing diversity” among their points of views or personalities.

Airlines that are suffering from plunging sales amid the pandemic drastically cut the number of new recruits they hired, and have seconded their employees to other organizations. Among them were cabin attendants from Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways who were seconded to Ishikawa Prefectural Government on Thursday as members of its tourism section.

“I would like to use my experience for my hometown in Ishikawa,” said Naho Okuyama, an ANA cabin attendant.

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