Five ways the coronavirus pandemic is tweaking life around the archipelago:

  • The traditional Namahage ritual in Oga, Akita Prefecture, is under threat as citizens are split over whether the annual event should be held amid the pandemic. During the ritual, people dressed as ogres visit homes in the region on New Year’s Eve, telling children to behave by shouting “Are there any crying kids?” in the local dialect. And there usually are.
  • The annual Sapporo Snow Festival, one of the country’s biggest winter events, will be canceled for the first time since its inception in 1950 amid a surge in novel coronavirus infections, its organizers say. The festival in February usually features large snow and ice statues in the city center.
Namahage fear! | ATELIERSWEET
Namahage fear! | ATELIERSWEET
  • Language school students in Aichi Prefecture will get one year to find jobs in the area after graduation due to the extraordinary circumstances this year. To be able to stay in the country, foreign students at Japanese-language schools are typically required to be offered a job while still studying, reports the Chunichi Shimbun.
  • Shoppers have been washing their hands and sterilizing their phones in Tokyo using handwashing stations that a start-up hopes will revolutionize access to clean water and engender better hygiene. WOTA set up 20 WOSH machines in Ginza to help shoppers do their bit to prevent the spread of the virus. The WOSHes don’t need a connection to running water and don’t use fresh and waste water tanks.
  • Karaoke operators have seen sales fall by as much as 40% amid the pandemic, but they’ve also been able to tap into new demand, reports the Chunichi Shimbun. At karaoke rooms operated by Nagoya-based Xing, customers can use the rooms to watch movies and music performance videos with top-quality audio, or play musical instruments as loud as they like. Customers can even telework from the rooms, with the added bonus of knowing they can launch into some solo Rammstein if they feel the need to blow off some steam.