The emperor of Japan doesn’t have any political power, but he is a symbol of the state — a fairly popular one, for what it’s worth. Today, that symbol said he is fearful of COVID cases surging as a result of the Olympics.
At a recent news conference, Yasuhiko Nishimura, grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, spoke on behalf of Emperor Naruhito:
His majesty is extremely worried about the current situation of the COVID-19 infections. While there are voices of unease among the public, I believe [the emperor] is concerned that holding the Olympics and Paralympics ... may lead to the expansion of the infections.
In a recent Kyodo News poll, 86 percent of Japanese respondents agreed that they fear a COVID rebound if the Games are held.
Nishimura also told organizers to “take every possible antivirus measure, so as not to cause the spread of the infections at the Olympics and Paralympics, where the emperor serves as the Honorary Patron.”
To be fair, the organizing committee did announce some anti-virus measures recently… but probably not the ones you’d think of. Fans will be allowed at 50 percent capacity, and alcohol, high-fives, and loud talking will be prohibited at events. Sounds like a great time!
Foreign fans will be banned from attending, but thousands of international athletes, journalists, sponsors, and officials will arrive in Tokyo in the coming weeks. That has Japanese citizens, including Emperor Naruhito, justifiably worried.
Unlike the U.S., Japan’s vaccination rate has been slow. Only 8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus. And while COVID restrictions have eased Tokyo and elsewhere, many citizens remain fearful of global virus at an international event. And who can blame them?
Yesterday an anti-Olympic protest was staged a month ahead of opening ceremonies. And today, a symbol of the state joined the chorus of concern.