Culture

Kinoshita Circus struggling amid COVID-19 crisis

Jiji

Kinoshita Circus, which has a 118-year history, is walking a financial tightrope, being unable to give performances amid the novel coronavirus epidemic.

The troupe, based in the western city of Okayama, has launched a crowdfunding project, mainly to cover feeding and other costs for its circus animals, such as lions and elephants, while its members are wasting no time ramping up their techniques in preparation for the restart of performances.

Kinoshita Circus, established in 1902, performs at four or five locations a year using a large red tent capable of accommodating up to 2,000 spectators. With its performances featuring trapeze acts and wild animal shows, the circus troupe attracts more than a million visitors annually.

However, its performance tour that started in December last year in the southwestern city of Fukuoka ended on Feb. 28, ahead of schedule, due to the spread of the coronavirus.

In late March, the troupe performed in the city of Kanazawa for three days, with the number of spectators limited to less than half of capacity.

Kinoshita Circus canceled all shows planned in the city of Niigata, central Japan, from June. Some 110 members, who stayed in Kanazawa at the time, continued practicing while refraining from going out.

On every Sunday during their stay in Kanazawa, members conducted a two-hour show behind closed doors. The shows were recorded on video, and members checked their skills by watching the recorded performances.

Some residents offered vegetables as feed for elephants and zebras, and members received letters of encouragement and financial donations from nurses at a local hospital.

Kinoshita Circus is now accelerating preparations for its shows slated to be held in Tachikawa, in Tokyo, in August. It will enhance ventilation in the tent and introduce thermography to check visitors’ body temperatures. It is also planning to conduct thorough disinfection.

Still, it plans to allow only 900 spectators for each show, with this resulting in plunging revenue.

The amount of donations received though the crowdfunding project topped the target ¥10 million on its fourth day. The money will be used to buy feed for the circus’ animals, which costs over ¥1 million a month, cover maintenance costs for its facilities and provide support for medical workers.

Donors will be given an admission ticket effective for five years in return. Those who donate ¥200,000 will get a ticket for trying trapeze acts, and donors of ¥2.5 million can watch an exclusive show.

Donations will be accepted until Sept. 22.

“While receiving support, we want to overcome the coronavirus crisis and deliver dreams, excitement and hopes,” Hideki Kinoshita, a 41-year-old director of Kinoshita Circus Co., said.

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