Young people these days. Always causing trouble, right? Well, that seems to be the tone some politicians are taking, including Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who hinted as much ahead of the third state of emergency.
“We want to appeal especially to the young people,” she said. “If young people would please stay in their homes, engage in studying and other activities inside their homes, things will turn out better.”
What would young Tokyoites get up to if they weren’t at home diligently studying? Rojōnomi, which translates in English as “drinking on the streets.”
And when you’re trying to sell your message to the youth, where do you go? YouTube. So, to make sure everyone got the message loud and clear, Koike appeared in a clip on the Hajimemashite Matsuo Desu (Nice To Meet You, I’m Matsuo) channel. Better yet, she appeared in animated form alongside the channel’s trademark characters: An octopus, a chicken and a mouse.
In a voiceover, she urged Tokyoites, especially young ones, to stay put during the Golden Week holidays and gave a stern warning about rojōnomi.
“Just don’t drink on the street or gather in parks to drink with others,” she stressed, adding that new COVID-19 variants are everywhere and more likely to affect younger people than what we’ve seen previously in Japan.
“These variants don’t follow a schedule, nor do they have a calendar,” she said. “There’s no way of knowing when and where they could turn up.”
We’re past Golden Week and the clip has received more than 1.3 million views, 76,000 likes and 1,300 dislikes on YouTube. The Hajimemashite Matsuo Desu Twitter account posted the video on May 1 and it has since received more than 369,600 views, 9,900 retweets and 27,700 likes.
“Wow, it’s really her,” tweeted @ichini_1_2. “I get that the coronavirus is scary, I’ll be careful not to get infected.”
Koike’s social media effort didn’t exactly slash the number of new cases popping up in Tokyo, however. Perhaps the governor should have directed her “Just Say No” effort at people who might be old enough to remember the original “Just Say No” campaign that was deployed to fight drug use in the United States in the 1980s. After all, a good deal of those partaking in rojōnomi are likely to be company employees and workers in their 30s and 40s.
“It’s not just young people,” declares an article on Tokyo Sports Web. “At Shin-Okubo Station for example, a group of middle- to senior-age people were on the street and drinking. One drunk man points to a supermarket and says, ‘This is my refrigerator,’ before purchasing some sake.”
On the website Newspicks, commenter Shota Aizawa said, “I’m disgusted by this finger-pointing at young people. Personally, I get a lot more ticked off by middle-aged men drinking alcohol on the train.”
The sentiment was also picked up on by Twitter user @AokiTonko, “The mainstream media is doing nothing but weighing the pros and cons of street drinking. A year ago, they went after the pachinko parlors and hostess/host bars. They’re just looking for a new villain to catch while smokescreening the fact that this country’s medical system is just not working.”
As the weather gets warmer, people will likely continue to mark quitting time with a tipple in the park in lieu of hitting their favorite bars (which are all closed anyway). The reasoning is that there is less chance of spreading COVID-19 if you’re outside.
Kobe Shimbun carried a report on those in their 20s, 30s and 40s who show up to parks with folding chairs and tables, ready to stay for a few hours. According to the report, people are likely to keep on drinking past sunset, but with their mask below their chin. Scientists at Riken warn that if you’re not wearing a mask while out drinking and speaking to someone, the wind could carry infectious germs over a distance of one meter, potentially infecting others.
On another front, rojōnomi has created a whole other problem: unwanted trash. In an article posted to the Asahi Shimbun’s Aera Dot news site, residents in Yokohama unleashed their anger over having to clean up the mess made by outdoors drinkers.
Will young people get the blame for this as well? If they do, we may see Gov. Koike come up with a “no littering” dance for TikTok by summer.
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