A closed cinema in Shibuya on May 7, 2021 (photo: Daryl Harding)
Although the third State of Emergency to combat the coronavirus was extended until at least June 20 in ten prefectures in Japan, the prefectural governments of Tokyo and Osaka are allowing theaters to re-open under revised guidelines, which also sees Universal Studios Japan re-open. From June 1, all major cinema chains in the country will once again be allowed to show movies.
In Tokyo, theaters are allowed to be open until 9 PM all week, and still be unable to serve alcohol. Meanwhile, in Osaka, theaters will be allowed the same guidelines but must close on the weekend. All cinemas must have a one-seat gap between moviegoers, including the front and the back. TOHO Cinemas was the first major movie chain to announce a re-open, while T. Joy and United Cinema have already confirmed their re-opens as well.
A coalition of distributors, theater chains, directors, and other film industry professionals opposed the closure of theaters when the third State of Emergency started in late April. Along with The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, they lobbied the Japanese governments to re-open theaters, saying in a statement that “there is no evidence of the occurrence of clusters in ‘movie theaters,’ and from the perspective of ‘controlling the flow of people,’ we do not believe that the effect is particularly different from that of other facilities or events that attract visitors.” Other groups, such as SAVE the CINEMA, have been demanding government help to save local and independent theaters. Both supported this move to re-open cinemas on June 1.
Tokyo today recorded the lowest number of new cases since April 5, with 260 new cases of COVID-19 reported. Meanwhile, Osaka only recorded 98 new cases today, the lowest since March 22. The latest extension of the State of Emergency is scheduled to end on June 20.
If you or someone you know is living in Japan, coronavirus-based English resources are available at NHK World Japan.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.