Asia News: Japan Lifts State Of Emergency, Outlines Timeline For Mass Gatherings

Japan Lifts State Of Emergency, Outlines Timeline For Mass Gatherings
Japan is lifting its COVID-19 state of emergency, which has been in effect since the first week of April. As of June 1 all of the country’s 47 prefectures are once again open for business with varying degrees of restrictions. 
All concerts were cancelled under the state of emergency, a situation has been extended through to the end of June for most places. 
The Japanese government on May 25 announcement guidelines for resuming concert events and other “mass gatherings.” Until June 18, such gatherings will be limited to 100 persons if the event is indoors, or 200 persons if outdoors. From June 19 to July 9, the number of attendees will be increased to one thousand, and then to 5,000 after July 10. If there is not appreciable increase in confirmed infections, all restrictions for concerts will be lifted on Aug. 1.
Other conditions that are requested but not mandatory: Indoor events should not exceed 50 percent of the venue’s capacity, even after Aug. 1. For outdoor events, the authorities urge allowing two meters distance between attendees “if possible.” It appears that most “live houses,” which tend to be small clubs, are being asked to remain shut for the time being.
One exception is the live house Anima in Osaka, which reopened last week with a concert by the rock band Sex Machine. Safety measures were fairly strict. Staff all wore plastic face guards and guests were required to wear masks and have their body temperatures measured upon entering. 
In most live houses attendees stand for performances, but in this case the staff placed 49 chairs on the floor, which normally holds up to 350 people. The chairs were placed a sufficient distance apart to recommended maintain social distancing. In addition, a transparent plastic sheet hung between the four-piece band on stage and the audience. 
Takeshi Morita, the band’s vocalist, told the Sankei Shimbun newspaper that he was “happy” to be performing in front of a live audience again. The owner of the club said that he was fully prepared to restart live shows under this particular regimen.

Japanese Government Plans To Support Artist Streams
As a means of helping the music and concert industries stay on its feet during the pandemic, the Japanese government is prepared to promote online streaming of concert videos featuring Japanese artists to other countries. 
The idea is part of an “intellectual property strategic plan” being drawn up by the government and will provide financial aid to help entertainment companies distribute videos of live events “performed without audiences.”
Shinzo Abe
Yoshitaka Sugawara/Kyodo News via AP
– Shinzo Abe
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a parliamentary session in Tokyo Monday, March 23, 2020. Abe said a postponement of Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Jiji Press news service, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is personally behind the plan and said at one of the planning sessions, “It is necessary to urgently update our copyright and many other systems” so as to promote the export of Japanese digital content.
According to the entertainment service provider Pia, cancellations of concerts and other performing arts events in Japan has resulted in a losses of up to 330 billion yen ($3 billion) as of the end of May, and entertainment businesses have complained that the government has paid less attention to their needs than to other sectors of the economy. 
At best, the government has said it will provide one-off payments to alleviate some of the pain. Kensaku Fukui, a lawyer who often represents the interests of promoters and other entertainment companies, told, “It’s ridiculous to say that they can’t pay compensation because organizers made the decision themselves to cancel their events. If they claim they can’t give special treatment to artistic, cultural and live events, they should at least take measures that fairly reflect that the industry’s losses were larger and came earlier than others.” 
Fukui’s main point is that live event promoters were asked to cease operations a full month before other businesses were told to restrict their own operations. In addition, Fukui says that the idea that the government will eventually compensate the industry is insufficient, because it will likely be too late. Many venues have already closed permanently, and promoters will be the next. They need support now. “It could be the case of too little too late,” Fukui said.
New Infections Slow Return Of South Korean Concerts
In Korea, the reopening of live events has hit a snag. The Korea Herald reports that just as some venues in the capital of Seoul and surrounding areas were set to start business again they decided to remain closed with even stricter social distancing measures. 
Several new infection clusters appeared in the Seoul metropolitan area, so the government has asked all state-funded cultural facilities in the region to shut down again.The order mainly affected four performing arts centers and seven publicly supported performance companies. 
In early May, the government had given these companies permission to resume activities based on 
“everyday distancing,” and the companies went ahead and made schedules. 
However, these schedules were put on hold May 31, thus affecting the activities of the National Dance Company, the Korean National Ballet, the National Theater Company and the Korean Symphony Orchestra. Private performing groups have also canceled early June performances in line with the government order, which will remain in place for at least two weeks.

Zaiko Interview Explores New Ticketer’s Survival During COVID-19
In an interview with the Japan Times, a representative of the new e-ticketing company, Zaiko, revealed how the firm was weathering its first full year in the face of a pandemic that has decimated Japan’s live event industry. 
Zaiko admits that it was a serious problem but because they were young and flexible they were able to adjust more readily than established ticketing companies. Zaiko, for instance, became one of the first companies to pivot to selling tickets to live streaming events. 
The company’s main attraction is, for customers, its multilingual platform, and, for artists, the ability to create their own ticketing web pages that allows them to follow consumer data and cultivate fans. Since all tickets are digital, there is no need to go somewhere to print out a paper ticket, which is still the case with most other Japanese ticket providers.
The problem, according to the Japan Times, is that this model was quickly copied by other ticketing companies who, Zaiko says, are now attempting to draw some of their clients away.  
“Very early, we noticed copies,” said Lauren Rose Kocher, a Zaiko executive, “mostly other tech companies adjusting their platform to mirror ours and often adding their own spin on it.” This tactic, she said, is fairly common in Japan. Consequently, the company is trying to stay ahead of the competition by coming up with new ideas through technology. They’ve already moved into new areas of performing arts representation, even while the pandemic continues.