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People resurface at tourist spots, surfers hit beaches after Japan's virus emergency ends

People climb the exterior stairs of Tokyo Tower in the capital's Minato Ward on the first weekend after the lifting of a state of emergency, on May 30, 2020. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)
Families and surfers are seen at Katase Kaigan beach in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, on May 30, 2020. (Mainichi/Mami Miyajima)

People started returning to tourist spots while surfers returned to beaches on May 30, the beginning of the first weekend since the novel coronavirus state of emergency was lifted for all of Japan's 47 prefectures.

    However, concerns remain over a second wave of infections, and many people were seen wearing masks and trying to avoid the "three Cs" of closed spaces, crowded places, and close personal contact settings.

    The state of emergency that had remained in place for five prefectures including Tokyo, Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, and Kanagawa Prefecture, south of the capital, was lifted on May 25, bringing the emergency declaration to an end across the country.

    Over 50 people were seen lined up at the ticket counter of Tokyo Tower in the capital's Minato Ward before 9 a.m. on March 30, the third day the tower's observation deck has been back in operation. Most visitors used the 600-step exterior stairway to cover the 150 meters up to the deck, which the tower suggested both to prevent virus transmissions in the elevator and to help people make up for a lack of exercise.

    "Recently I've spent my time at home playing computer games. I came here instead of going mountain climbing, which I love to do, because I wanted to walk up the steps," said 71-year-old Yutaka Matsui, a resident of Tokyo's Nakako Ward. Another 40-year-old visitor from the Tokyo suburban city of Mitaka who was at the tower with his son commented, "I'm still hesitant to go into enclosed spaces to enjoy myself. I feel a little more at ease using the outside steps, but I won't stay for long and want to get back home quickly."

    Staff at the tower wore face shields and masks to prevent the spread of the virus, and the number of people who could use the elevator was limited to four at a time.

    Meanwhile, in the Shonan area of Kanagawa Prefecture, many surfers and families were seen at the beach. Visitors had flocked to the area right after a state of emergency was declared in April, prompting the prefectural government to urge people to stay away. The number of visitors subsequently declined, but May 30 saw figures climbing again.

    People are seen at Odori Park in Sapporo's Chuo Ward on May 30, 2020. (Mainichi/Kohei Shinkai)

    At the Katase Kaigan beach in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Fujisawa, a 48-year-old man who was visiting from the prefectural city of Chigasaki with his sons, aged 12 and 9, commented, "There were many restrictions after the state of emergency declaration, so I came here wanting my sons to play. I think we're unlikely to have the 'three Cs' at the beach. I'd like to enjoy the time here while maintaining a good distance from those around us." Many people at the beach said they could not see the three Cs, and few were wearing masks on the sand.

    The city of Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido, saw fine weather on May 30 and at Odori Park in the city's Chuo Ward, lilacs -- the city's official flower -- were seen in bloom as people jogged and walked through the area. One 47-year-old man out walking, Kanju Hasegawa, commented, "I sometimes feel like you can't refrain from going out forever. I want to take every possible protective measure and breathe in the fresh air outside."

    However, Hokkaido, which was hit by a second wave of infections after an initial lull in mid-March, had its state of emergency lifted before it reached its target for lowering the number of cases in the week prior. Many people are therefore still cautious about going out. One 52-year-old man on his way to work, Nobuhiro Kosuge, commented, "I'm more worried about passing the virus on to others than catching it myself. I can't do without a mask."

    Tourist spots in the prefecture including Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa, and the Mt. Hakodate Ropeway in Hakodate are due to resume operations on June 1, when the prefecture fully lifts a business suspension request.

    (Japanese original by Shohei Kawamura, City News Department, Mami Miyajima, Yokohama Bureau, and Kohei Shinkai, Hokkaido News Department)

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