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Cute capybara plush toys give social distance assistance at Japan zoo restaurant

Capybara plush toys are seen placed in chairs to help customers practice social distancing at a restaurant in Izu Shaboten Zoo in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, on May 24, 2020. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida, Photo Group)

ITO, Shizuoka -- Capybara plush toys and other stuffed animals are helping customers practice social distancing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and also keeping them company during mealtime at a zoo restaurant in this central Japan city.

Izu Shaboten Zoo in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, had closed on April 20 in response to the state of emergency declaration, and reopened on May 16. Upon reopening, it was suggested that the zoo restaurant set priority seats for stuffed animals to prevent visitors from sitting side by side.

Cute stuffed animals are also found hanging out in table seats to prevent groups of customers from sitting close together.

"It feels like I'm having lunch with the capybaras, and that's fun," commented a smiling Keishiro Yoshimaru, 18, who is studying to become a zookeeper.

Zoo director Tomoaki Nakamura, 51, said, "We need to distance ourselves from others, but it felt lonely to just take away some seats. With a method unique to this exciting (zoo) atmosphere, we would like visitors to be cautious during their time here."

(Japanese original by Kota Yoshida, Photo Group)

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