Okinawa Warns of Risks in Traditional Drinking Culture

Society Lifestyle

Naha, Okinawa Pref., Oct. 20 (Jiji Press)--Amid the recent spread of the new coronavirus on the island of Miyakojima, part of Okinawa Prefecture, the government of the southernmost Japan prefecture has issued an advisory over Miyakojima’s traditional drinking custom.

In October, the virus started spreading again in nightlife districts on Miyakojima, with the prefecture as a whole recording the nation’s largest number of people newly infected with the novel coronavirus per population of 100,000, outstripping Tokyo, for 17 days in a row.

Due to the risk of COVID-19 infection, the prefectural government called on Miyakojima residents to refrain from the “otori” practice, in which participants drink “awamori” distilled liquor, a specialty of the prefecture, in turn from the same glass at ceremonies and gatherings, saying that such a practice poses an infection risk.

The custom is believed to date back to the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled the region between the 15th and 19th centuries.

In late July, an infection cluster emerged on the island of Yoron in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima. It is believed that the virus, brought to the island from somewhere else, spread as people shared cups with others. The practice, similar to otori, is called “yoron kenpo,” in which people drink “shochu” distilled spirits in turn from the same cup.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press