One of the strangest things about the western Christmas and New Year holidays in the tropics of Southeast Asia is the absence of cold weather and any ability to even dream of snow. However, my first winter holiday season in Japan was a miracle as I walked out of my house in Yokohama and staring me in the face was the amazing sight of Mount Fuji. It was most puzzling that it had been there all along. However, it only became visible when the factories closed for the winter holidays and the continuous air pollution was severely curtailed. Therefore, this time of year was special in Tokyo with a very positive vibe looking forward to a prosperous new year. Had we only known last year about the year we just experienced, our customary optimism would have been crushed.
The Nikkei Asia Review recently published an extensive, sobering article on the Coronavirus throughout the world. As you can see below, Japan is a congested country though the Japanese people follow the science and dutifully wear their masks when instructed to do so. In fact, many Japanese traditionally wear masks throughout the winter period. However, a recent uptick in the Covid-19 caseload caused the governors of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures to cancel all-night train service on New Year's Eve to preclude people making traditional New Year visits to temples and shrines during crowded times. Fortunately, Mount Fuji which sits at the heart of Japanese culture should be visible to many Japanese even though physical access has been precluded since last spring. Nonetheless, the postponed Tokyo Olympics are still on course to be held next summer. If anyone can do it, the Japanese have the organization and discipline to do so.
Every year Japan selects a kanji character to record the history of the preceding calendar year. The Chief Buddhist priest, Seihan Mori of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, is shown below writing a kanji that means "dense," a Chinese character picked to best describe this year's mood in Japan.
The Chinese character for "mitsu," which means congested or dense, is used in the phrase "san-mitsu." It is translated as "three Cs" in reference to closed spaces, crowds and close contacts that Japanese are encouraged to avoid. Sadly, many huge, but empty egos, around the leadership of the western world failed to comprehend this simple message causing unnecessary deaths as they contracted Covid-19 themselves.