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Facing the music: Street piano off limits in west Japan city due to virus fears

A woman plays a street piano at JR Himeji Station in the city of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, on Feb. 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Masato Hirota)
A street piano is seen covered by cloth over fears of coronavirus infections at JR Himeji Station in the city of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, on Feb. 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Norihito Hanamure)

HIMEJI, Hyogo -- A street piano recently placed on a concourse at JR Himeji Station in this western Japan city has been covered and placed off limits amid fears of the new coronavirus.

Public use of the piano has been suspended since Feb. 28 to help prevent the spread of infections as it was feared that many unspecified people would touch the keyboard.

The instrument was placed at the site on Jan. 29 on an experimental basis by the Himeji Municipal Government, which is promoting itself as "a city of music," and West Japan Railway Co. (JR West). Although the project was initially scheduled to run through Feb. 24, the local government decided to keep the street piano there permanently in a bid to promote music in Japan.

The experiment was well received, with many people commenting, "It was relaxing for me," and "Please keep it there."

Ayane Kawano, 19, a local vocational school student who played the street piano on Feb. 25, said, "I saw talented musicians practicing many times. I'm looking forward to listening to the piano daily." A city official in charge said, "More street pianos have been set up in the prefectural capital city of Kobe. I hope to offer the same in Himeji."

(Japanese original by Masato Hirota, Himeji Bureau)

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