DUBAI: Shams Qamar, the Japanese man so fond of Arab culture he embraced it as his own, is celebrating Emperor Naruhito’s birthday quietly on Tuesday amid the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“As the third year of Reiwa is celebrated, from the viewpoint of preventing the spread of the new coronavirus infection, they decided not to celebrate publicly,” he told Arab News Japan.
Qamar, who is also known as Akira Takatoriya, said with the weather in Japan getting warmer, people would try to celebrate privately and avoid crowded areas.
Aid the pandemic, all types of celebrations in Japan have been limited after the country entered a state of emergency on Jan. 7.m
New Year celebrations were subdued as well, with no countdown or fireworks. The emperor’s palace, meanwhile, will not allow members of the public to enter to avoid further spread of the virus this year.
Born and raised in the southern Japanese city of Oita, Qamar moved to Tokyo after high school. He graduated from Tsukuba University with a history major.
He then went on to work for Hitachi — one of the biggest Japanese electronics companies — and got a chance to visit Saudi Arabia as part of the Saudi-Japan youth exchange program.
He became fascinated with the Arab culture, and has become something of a celebrity, even dressing in the traditional Arab kandoora and thobe.
He has worked in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Palestine, and despite being based in Tokyo, he visits the region as often as he can.
Back in October, Qamar congratulated Arab News Japan on its first anniversary and explained that the Japanese community “appreciated Arab News Japan because they can now read news about the Middle East in Japanese.”
He said he hoped the relationship between the two regions continues and Saudi-Japanese ties only grow stronger.
With the vaccination drive already started in Japan since mid-February, many hope the situation will subside in time for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in time for next year’s celebrations.