Japan’s kabuki theater resumes, socially distanced, after coronavirus hiatus


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Though the traditional black-dressed stage assistants who approach the performers most closely wore both masks and face shields during a rehearsal, the company that runs the theater said they wore only masks from Saturday’s performance because the shields apparently made their job harder to do.

Audience members face temperature checks at the entrance and must wear masks. Seats are roped off so fewer than half are usable, and the auditorium will be sterilized between each act.

Though eating boxed lunches between acts has long been a cherished kabuki custom, it’s currently prohibited.

Tokyo on Friday confirmed a record 463 cases and Governor Yuriko Koike warned the capital could declare a state of emergency should things deteriorate further, a situation Hashimoto said they’re reluctantly keeping in mind.

“Of course if there are limits and requests from the government, we’ll … look into a different form of performing – which might mean halting partway through the run,” he said.

Chiaki Sakurai, a 46-year-old Tokyo resident who usually watches kabuki two or three times a month and was dressed in a green kimono, said she was grateful and excited.

“To say nothing good has happened the last five months may be an exaggeration, but I feel as if I’ve finally come back to life,” she added.

Around 1,000 people have died in Japan due to COVID-19, with some 36,330 infected. (Additional reporting by Akira Tomoshige; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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