Japan’s Imperial Family will be ringing in the new year privately this year. The Imperial Household has decided to cancel Emperor Naruhito’s New Year’s event at the palace, due to a rise in coronavirus cases.
The news of this latest cancellation came as Japan recorded a record high of 1,700 COVID-19 cases.
This annual event was scheduled for January 2 and usually draws tens of thousands of people into a small space to see the Imperial Family on their balcony. At the celebration last year, Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, Crown Prince Akishino and the extended family went out on the balcony to greet crowds of well-wishers five times throughout the day.
It is the first time the celebration has been cancelled since 1990. It was cancelled then due to the country being in mourning for Emperor Hirohito.
The Emperor and Empress have rarely been seen since the pandemic began. Officials are fearing a second wave of coronavirus in the country and are urging all citizens to limit activities and gatherings during the holiday season to stop the spread.
Earlier this year, coronavirus led to the cancellation of the Emperor’s birthday address. Also, the biannual garden parties where the Emperor and Empress meet with people who have significant achievements in their respective fields were removed from the schedule due to the pandemic.
The increase of coronavirus cases is not the only troubling story out of Japan. Suicides are also up, killing more people in October than coronavirus did in 10 months. Many victims are women, and experts say the loss of employment because of the pandemic is the cause behind the increased suicide rate.