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Kabuki theater in Tokyo reopens after 5-month hiatus over coronavirus

Visitors wait at the entrance of Kabukiza Theatre in Tokyo on Aug. 1, 2020, for its reopening, following a five-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo reopened Saturday for public performances for the first time in five months after taking measures against the novel coronavirus that had prompted its closure.

    Fans welcomed the restart for the scheduled August performances featuring major kabuki actors, including Kataoka Ainosuke. Operators measured the body temperatures of visitors at the entrance and also took preventive steps such as keeping performers further away from the audience than usual.

    "I feel that we need something like kabuki that enriches our lives under tough environments like today," said a 58-year-old man who has been visiting the theater for nearly 20 years.

    A 36-year-old woman who has returned from France due to the pandemic said, "I definitely wanted to see the first day's performance even though I was worried" about the recent spread of infections.

    The theater said it has conducted antibody tests on some 500 people, including performers and staff, and polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests on 200 of them who are directly involved in the performances. None tested positive, it said.

    Featuring four plays a day, the theater is sanitized after each play.

    To maintain social distancing, it only accepts 823 spectators for about 1,800 seats. They are also asked to refrain from eating and drinking inside the theater.

    Kabuki performances with audiences had been suspended across Japan since March, when domestic infections were first confirmed.

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