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What’s Happening Now in Fukuoka & Japan July 2021

08/01/2021

Little cheer in Tokyo for Olympics – Tokyo

The athletes are in the Village and the world’s media has arrived, but for many in Japan, there’s little festive cheer just a day before the Olympics open in Tokyo. There are no cheering foreign fans roaming the streets, and athletes are ferried from Village to venue in a bubble meant to keep them and the Japanese public safe from coronavirus. Local spectators are barred from almost all Games venues, with only around 900 people expected to attend the opening ceremony at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium — just around 150 of them Japanese. Little surprise then that many in Japan are struggling to detect much Olympic spirit in the final countdown to a Games that are finally taking place a year after becoming the first in modern history to be postponed.

The city has been adorned with Tokyo 2020 flags and advertising, and futuristic Olympic and Paralympic mascots are plastered on buses and buildings. But there is little else to give away the fact that some of the world’s top athletes have descended on Tokyo from around the globe. Rising virus cases in the city mean all public viewing events have been scrapped. And a state of emergency means restaurants and bars must close by 8:00 pm — when the opening ceremony begins — and they are banned from serving alcohol.

Seira Onuma was one of thousands of Japanese who competed to snag tickets in a lottery before the Games were postponed, but now she’s not even sure she’ll watch on TV. “I was so disappointed by the no-fan decision and now I’m losing interest altogether,” she said in Tokyo’s Koto area, not far from the village where thousands of competitors and officials are staying.

But others are getting into the Olympic spirit, despite the restrictions, including Yumiko Nishimoto, who lives in Fukushima where Games competition began this week with softball. “It does feel like it’s happening,” said Nishimoto, who leads a community project to plant 20,000 cherry trees in the region affected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster. “You get the sense that it’s finally starting.”

Public opinion polls show Japanese remain largely opposed to holding the Games this year, and most would prefer a further postponement or outright cancellation.

Japan starts checking COVID vaccination status of overseas arrivals – Nationwide

Japan has begun surveying overseas arrivals about their COVID-19 vaccination status as it explores the feasibility of exempting those vaccinated abroad from the country’s strict entry restrictions, government sources said. While Japan has decided to issue so-called vaccine passports to enable residents who have been fully inoculated against the novel coronavirus to travel internationally, it has yet to ease border measures for holders of such vaccine certificates issued abroad. But with more than 10 different vaccines used around the world, a number of issues remain to be resolved, including whether those not approved by the Japanese government will be recognised.

As for Japan’s vaccine passports, over 30 countries are expected to accept them, although the United States is unlikely to in the near future as rules vary between states, the sources said. The government has also not begun talks on the passports in earnest with China and other countries that administer vaccines not yet approved in Japan. The Foreign Ministry plans to publish a list of some of the countries that have agreed to accept Japan’s vaccine passports on its website, according to the sources. Japan will very soon accept applications for the vaccine certificates, which will be issued free of charge.

Narita, Haneda airports start full-scale use of facial recognition system – Tokyo

Japan’s Narita and Haneda airports started the use of facial recognition on a full scale, allowing international travellers to check in baggage and pass security checkpoints without showing passports or flight tickets. In the “Face Express” system aimed at speeding up the boarding process and providing a touchless experience for passengers, travellers need to have their photos taken at check-in when they register their passports and boarding passes upon arriving at the airports.

After registering necessary data with special terminals, cameras at baggage check-in, security checkpoint entrances and boarding gates will automatically verify passengers’ identity and allow them to pass through, Narita International Airport Corp said. The system fully came into service after Narita airport started trialling the use of facial recognition in April, only involving airport staff and not actual travellers. It will also lead to reduced physical contact between travellers, machines, and airport and flight staff, helping to prevent the spread of virus infections, the airport operator has said.

Passenger data, including facial images, will be deleted within 24 hours after registration to protect privacy. The biometric ID processing is available on some flights of All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines at Narita airport, and some Japan Airlines flights at Haneda airport in Tokyo for the time being, gradually expanding to other airlines.


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