National

Reopening libraries and cinemas, Tokyo adapts to new normal

From staggered seating to shorts visits, this is what it's like to live in the midst of the coronavirus

Jiji

A week after the government fully lifted a state of emergency, residents and businesses in Tokyo are starting to adapt to a new normal, balancing measures to prevent COVID-19 infections with the resumption of economic activity.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library in Minato Ward reopened Monday after a closure of about three months. Visitors are required to make reservations for visits beforehand and are allocated two-hour slots during which they could enter.

“The university library isn’t open, so I’ve been struggling with writing my thesis,” said Yuriko Yazawa, a 28-year-old graduate student of Chiba University.

She visited the metropolitan library for a book on the history of sericulture. “I made a reservation (for a visit) as soon as I learned of the reopening,” said Yazawa, a resident of Higashimurayama.

Corporate workers lined up in front of food trucks outside an office complex in Tokyo’s Otemachi business district during lunchtime the same day. A 27-year-old real estate worker and resident of Setagaya Ward who bought Hawaiian food from a truck said that she commuted to the office for the first time in about two months and that she is “slightly uneasy about eating inside a restaurant.”

Around 5 p.m., workers began gathering at Shimbashi Station in Minato Ward to head home after work.

“I went to my office for the first time in a while, but I just got tired,” a 53-year-old employee of an information technology company said. “Teleworking is a lot more efficient.”

Employees spray hand sanitizer for visitors at Tokyo Skytree on Monday as the city's landmark reopened a week after the lifting of a state of emergency. | AFP-JIJI
Employees spray hand sanitizer for visitors at Tokyo Skytree on Monday as the city’s landmark reopened a week after the lifting of a state of emergency. | AFP-JIJI

“I had been told to wait at home, so I didn’t get the sense of having started working,” a 21-year-old new employee of a hotel operator said. He was wearing a new suit as Monday was his first day of work on-site. “I was assigned to a department, so I am full of nerves and excitement.”

The Eurospace cinema in Shibuya Ward, which had been closed for over 50 days, restarted operations on Monday. It sold tickets so that visitors would be seated with an empty seat between each other. Tickets for a screening from 6:30 p.m. were sold out.

“I like movie theaters more than (watching films on) video,” said Shiki Asano, an 81-year-old resident of Nerima Ward. Asano has been visiting the theater for 21 years.

“Watching movies in the same space as others while hearing them breathing in the dark room is thrilling,” said a 66-year-old female visitor from Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Showa Kinen Park in the city of Tachikawa, western Tokyo, did not have many visitors due to the rain.

“They gained weight while we stayed at home,” a 48-year-old self-employed man from the city joked, referring to his two dogs. “I came to the park for the first time in two months, and I could finally return to my daily routine.”

The government’s coronavirus state of emergency, declared in April, was fully lifted on May 25, when it ended in Tokyo and four other prefectures. The state of emergency was lifted earlier in May for the rest of the country.

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