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Quiet, please: Theme parks in Japan may discourage screaming on thrill rides

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

As some U.S. theme parks have begun announcing plans for reopening their gates, park-goers have been told in no uncertain terms that there will be no parades, no fireworks, and no up-close-and-personal character meet and greets, but no screaming? Believe it or not, “quiet thrill rides” may be part of the reopening protocols at Japanese theme parks.

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Photos courtesy of Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, as well as Universal Studios Japan, have been closed since February, but with infection numbers decreasing, the parks are looking ahead to the procedures and precautions they’ll need to implement to reopen safely.

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With that goal in mind, the East Japan and West Japan Theme Park Associations, with 30 major amusement park operators as members (including Oriental Land Japan – the company that manages Tokyo Disneyland/Tokyo DisneySea – and USJ, the management company for Universal Studios Japan), have put together a document called “Guidelines to Prevent the Spread of Infection of the Novel Coronavirus.” 

The document describes suggested policies, including many that are already being implemented by Disney and Universal at Disney Springs and CityWalk in Orlando, including limited capacity, checking guests’ temperatures at entrances (and denying admission to anyone with a fever), and requiring face masks.

The section of the guidelines about managing attractions and rides, however, is where the curious “no screaming” recommendation comes in. Here, the parks are told to “have guests wear masks and urge them to refrain from shouting/screaming” when riding roller coasters and other “conveyance-style attractions.” Plus, guests may also be asked to remain quiet during indoor attractions and costumed character shows.

While the request may seem odd at first, let’s take a minute and think about it: We know the coronavirus is an airborne infection, so the associations’ no screaming recommendation would undoubtedly reduce the amount of breath and saliva flying from the mouths of coaster riders.

The dilemma seems to be that screaming on a thrill ride is frequently an involuntary response to a particularly exciting or scary part of the ride—and, many argue, is the main reason for riding a thrill ride in the first place. Still, not screaming in exchange for reducing airborne infection may not be a deal-breaker to those who want to get back to the parks safely. At this point, these are only guidelines, so there’s no need to panic just yet.

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There are no official announcements from Disney regarding reopening policies and restrictions for parks in Japan, but Universal Studios Japan has shared that it will reopen to guests on Friday, June 19.

If staying quiet on a thrill ride is not a promise you can keep, it may be better to hold off visiting Japanese theme parks until a bit farther down the post-pandemic line.

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