New recruits mark 1st day at work, many join ceremonies online

©Kyodo News

Many new recruits at public offices, companies and other organizations in Japan started work Thursday, with events marking their first day at work largely switched online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year many entrance ceremonies marking the start of the new business year were canceled due to the spread of the new coronavirus. Many employers resumed the seasonal event this year, but avoided large-scale gatherings by downscaling them or adopting virtual participation.

Businesses hit hard by the pandemic have sharply cut the number of new recruits. According to the education ministry, the percentage of fresh university graduates who secured a job as of Feb. 1 stood at 89.5 percent, down 2.8 points from a year earlier.

In Tokyo, the host of the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games slated for this summer, only four new recruits attended the entrance ceremony of the metropolitan government, with some 1,700 others participating virtually via the internet.

"(Together) we will overcome the unprecedented battle against the virus to open up a bright future and to lead the Olympics and Paralympics to success," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said to the four representatives of the new recruits at the metropolitan government building.

Saki Sawayama, 22, one of the four, said after the event, "I would like to interact with colleagues remotely or via other means as much as possible" because welcome parties for new recruits will likely not be held this year to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Osaka prefectural government in western Japan held entrance ceremonies for new recruits at a number of venues. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura told them in a pre-recorded video message, "I want you to work hard to protect the lives of the citizens in the prefecture."

Trading house Itochu Corp. canceled its ceremony for new recruits for the second straight year, but put on a display of cherry blossoms in full bloom in the lobby of its Tokyo head office to welcome the recruits as they passed through on the way to their new offices.

Itochu Chairman and CEO Masahiro Okafuji was there to welcome them and some of the company's officials posted abroad gave the new recruits a round of applause and congratulatory messages via a large monitor installed there.

Toyota Motor Corp., which also canceled a ceremony last year, held a special event this year for 1,045 new recruits, linking 150 locations online. President Akio Toyoda told them to be "challengers" and become "the driving force of innovations by cherishing diversity" among their points of views or personalities.