Karaoke fans in Tokyo got a taste of the "new normal" for singing in a karaoke box on Friday, the first day after business closure requests for such establishments were lifted following a sharp fall in new coronavirus cases.
Customers at a Karaoke Manekineko parlor near Shinjuku Station had their temperatures checked by an AI-installed machine at the entrance and sang with microphones that had cloth covers and plastic shields attached.
The parlor, which reopened at midnight Thursday as soon as the local authorities lifted the requests, saw a number of masked customers from the morning.
"I came to karaoke for the first time in four months. I'm really happy," said an 18-year-old woman who came with a friend.
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A 21-year-old university student found the parlor's measures against the virus appropriate and responsible. "I can use the facility with pleasure" thanks to the measures, he said.
The parlor, which had been shut for more than two months, is limiting the number of customers depending on the size of room and ventilation. Staff wearing masks and face shields periodically disinfect the rooms.
Gloves are also available for customers who wish to wear them.
A 20-year-old employee of the parlor said she was looking forward to coming to work as she likes interacting with customers. "The coronavirus has not ceased to exist. We have to take measures properly so customers can feel safe and enjoy themselves," she said.
Karaoke boxes, typically consisting of multiple rooms in various sizes equipped with karaoke machines, fall under the "3 C's" -- confined spaces, crowded places and close contact -- that should be avoided to prevent the spread of the virus.
"We acknowledge that customers have anxieties," said Masahiko Komuro, chief of the investor and public relations office at Koshidaka Holdings Co., whose group runs the 509 Karaoke Manekineko parlors across the nation, including 73 in Tokyo.
"If we find good steps to take, we would like to introduce them," Komuro said.