'Keep your screams inside': rollercoaster fans told to be quiet to help Japan Covid-19 fight

Gavin Blair in Tokyo
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Visitors to Japan’s amusement parks are being asked not to scream when riding rollercoasters so as to help prevent spreading the coronavirus, while the limited numbers of football fans allowed into stadiums this weekend will have to support their teams without singing, clapping or waving scarves.

When the Fuji-Q Highland theme park reopened on 1 June after a three-month closure due to the pandemic, it asked visitors to follow the recommendations of the amusement park association and not to shout or scream.

Some customers complained it was impossible to stay quiet on rides, particularly the two-kilometre-long Fujiyama rollercoaster, which reaches speeds of 130km/h and drops 70 metres at one point. Named after nearby Mount Fuji, the rollercoaster was the fastest and tallest in the world when it opened in 1996.

In response, the park released a video of two stony-faced senior executives riding Fujiyama without uttering a peep, urging visitors to imitate them and “Keep your screams inside.”

Fuji-Q then launched a #Mao (serious face) campaign through which riders who post a video of their silent, masked and serious faces while riding Fujiyama on social media will be entered in a draw to win free tickets to the park.

A spokesperson for Fuji Q told the Guardian the response to the campaign had been encouraging but that some customers were still not happy about the guidelines.

Most theme parks in Japan have now reopened, with masks compulsory at all of them. Universal Studios Japan in Osaka opened its doors to annual pass holders and local residents only on 19 June, while Tokyo Disneyland began admitting visitors again on 1 July.

Restrictions on visitor numbers and the serving of alcohol remain in place, while even stricter rules will greet football fans this weekend.

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On Thursday, Tokyo saw its coronavirus cases rise by a one-day record of 224, the Fuji News Network reports. Tokyo’s cases have been rising by around 100 for the last few days, according to FNN.

Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government was not planning to reintroduce a state of emergency, telling a news conference it is looking at overall conditions, including the capacity of medical system, when deciding the need for the emergency.

Japan’s football league played just the opening matches of the season on the weekend of 21 February before games were suspended because of the pandemic. The league resumed on 4 July and a maximum of 5,000 fans per game will be allowed to watch at stadiums from Saturday.

The J League has issued 70 pages of guidelines on anti-virus measures, covering players, staff and fans. Forbidden behaviour for fans includes chants, claps and flag-waving.

“If people do break the rules, we’re supposed to reprimand them, so we’re still considering exactly how to respond,” said Satoshi Kuroda, a spokesperson for Shimizu S-Pulse, a top-tier club that plays its home games at the Ecopa Stadium about 230km south-west of Tokyo.

The 50,000-seater stadium hosted games in the 2002 Fifa World Cup, including England’s quarter-final defeat by Brazil, as well as Japan’s upset win over Ireland in last year’s Rugby World Cup.

Kuroda said: “Fans can bring big flags and banners in to display, but aren’t allowed to wave them around; that’s going to be tricky as if people get excited they may want to do so. We understand their feelings, but the rules will be explained when they get permission to bring them in.”

The club was reluctant to eject fans, Kuroda said, “but if the rules keep getting broken then it’s possible the league will stop letting fans in again”.