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Coronavirus

Japanese companies welcome new recruits amid coronavirus caution

Toned down ceremonies greet class of 2020 as many join via video link from home

A new employee, left, at The Nishi-Nippon City Bank has her temperature checked before an entrance ceremony in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Chuo Ward, Fukuoka. (Photo by Shinya Sawai) 

TOKYO/OSAKA/FUKUOKA -- With the start of the new fiscal year on April 1, large companies on Wednesday welcomed a new class employees in a time honored right of passage in Japan. But the coronavirus has caused many to suspend or significantly scale back their entrance ceremonies.

Top executives throughout the country welcomed new recruits with shouts of encouragement as an increasingly unclear economic and business outlook weighs on the immediate future. Some employees, however, heard them while watching the events online from home as a social distancing measure to reduce crowding.

On Wednesday morning at the main offices of trading house Itochu, about 120 new employees who had come to work for the first time received notices officially assigning them to their positions, though welcomes were limited to avoid close contact.

The new workers passed through the main entrance in single file and bowed to CEO Masahiro Okafuji and other executives, who all wore protective masks. But they will not be spending much time at the office, at least initially, as they will work and receive training at home for the time being.

ANA Holdings usually holds its ceremony in an aircraft hangar. But this year, President Shinya Katanozaka delivered his speech via video. "We've been through many hardships, like SARS and the Lehman shock, but all of our employees pulled together and we overcame them," he said, adding that the company is in a difficult position due to the coronavirus.

MUFG Bank, meanwhile, also shared a video message from President Kanetsugu Mike with the company's 512 new employees, who remained at home and are set to receive online training for the next two weeks. Some companies, such as Toyota Motor and Sony suspended their ceremonies entirely, while others, like Nintendo and Bridgestone, have postponed them.

New Itochu employees sanitize their hands on their first day at work. (Photo by Kei Higuchi)

At Nomura Holdings, Group CEO Kentaro Okuda officially started in his new position on Wednesday after the financial giant replaced its top executive for the first time in about eight years. He emphasized "skill, speed and spirit" as his three key words.

There were 325 new employees at Nomura Securities this year, down more than 40% from a year ago, as the securities sector struggles in the face of reduced fees. To respond to changes affecting the financial industry, Okuda is asking Nomura's management to elevate their sense of urgency. He called on new employees to be ambitious by taking chances and not worrying about mistakes.

Here are some of the scenes seen at major companies and organizations across Japan.

Participants at Ricoh's entrance ceremony kept apart to prevent possible spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Shihoko Nakaoka) 

 

New workers in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government watch a video address by Governor Yuriko Koike after the entrance ceremony was suspended. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura) 

 

New employees attend an entrance ceremony at Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma while donning masks. (Photo by Toshiki Sasazu) 

 

New employees watch The Nishi-Nippon City Bank’s entrance ceremony seated apart from one another. (Photo by Shinya Sawai) 

 

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