A Japanese cheerleading squad danced and cheered to raise commuters’ spirits outside a major Tokyo metro station on Thursday as the national capital headed into a one-month coronavirus lockdown.
“Let’s go, fight!” the four-woman squad shouted as they pumped shiny golden pom-poms into the chilly morning air at Shimbashi Station, a major interchange rail station in central Tokyo.
“I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing in the current situation,” office worker Tomoko Tsudanuma, 48, told Reuters on Thursday outside Shimbashi Station.
“I’ll be working at home from next week and it’s hard but I feel encouraged from watching this kind of activity,” she said of the cheer squad’s energetic performance, which included upbeat music and brightly colored outfits. The cheerleaders also engaged some commuters with pep talks and fist pumps while wearing masks.
Japan’s federal government on January 7 declared a 30-day limited state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures –Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba – to contain a recent surge in daily new coronavirus cases in the capital region.
“Originally, we started this activity because we wanted to send a cheer to everyone on the way to work,” the cheer squad’s leader, Kumi Asazuma, 37, told Ruptly, a service linked to Russian-owned RT. She explained that the group, named All Japan Oen, has performed for commuters in the Tokyo area for more than ten years.
“[E]specially now, with the spread of the coronavirus, many people have lost their jobs, cannot do what they wanted to do, their plans were interrupted, and I think that they really have various worries and stresses. That’s why we are doing our best with the intention of sending cheer to their eyes and ears for a moment or a second,” Kumi said.
The All Japan Oen leader said that her cheerleaders “generally perform Thursdays in Tokyo and Fridays in neighboring Kanagawa prefecture, with the number of performers depending on the availability of members, as they also have jobs.” Kumi works as a freelance event emcee and presenter.
“Going forward we probably will do the performance remotely by using computers or smartphones to broadcast from home separately and deliver our good vibes via social media,” Kumi said Thursday when asked how the cheerleaders will adapt to the new lockdown restrictions.
The limited state of emergency requires the capital region’s 150,000 restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. Residents must refrain from non-essential outings and work from home if possible. Crowds at sporting and other big events will be limited to 5,000 people. The locked-down capital region is home to roughly 30 percent of Japan’s population of 126.5 million people.