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Asia Minute: Japan’s Stadium Experiment in Pandemic Season

AP Photo/Hiro Komae
Fans enter a baseball stadium before a Japanese professional baseball league game between the Hanshin Tigers and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Yokohama, south of Tokyo on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

Researchers around the world are working on various strategies to keep the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum, while allowing certain aspects of routine life to return. For some, that includes sporting events — a focus in Japan.


Japan would like bigger crowds in stadiums safely.

The hopes of some are still that the Summer Olympics can take place as scheduled — starting next July in Tokyo.

Baseball is the first test, and yes, it’s still baseball season in Japan.

Opening Day was delayed, the season was interrupted but now the Japan Series gets started two weeks from Saturday. The number of fans has been gradually increased over the season, with teams allowed to fill stadiums to half their capacity by late September.

This past weekend in Yokohama, Japan’s professional league ran a three-day experiment — expanding the numbers of fans to 80% of stadium capacity on Friday and then raising it to 100% by the game on Sunday.

On the first day, they only got to about half — despite a cut in ticket prices.

Fans got temperature checks, masks were required, and instruments were installed to measure emissions of carbon dioxide and windspeed. Fans were asked not to cheer loudly so droplets would not be spread.

But the Asahi Shimbun reports when the Hanshin Tigers scored the first run of the game, fans stood up and made such a racket that security personnel scrambled to the outfield bleachers to urge them to sit down.

By Sunday, nearly 28,000 fans showed up — about 86% of capacity.

Another set of experiments is coming this weekend, with the Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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