At any amusement park worth visiting, you can hear the screams of satisfied and/or terrified roller coaster riders from the parking lot. Those faint, high-pitched sounds are music the ears of any thrill-seeker. So it’s weird that even though Japanese theme parks have reopened after coronavirus closures, the screams have not come back.
It’s not that quarantine has made Japanese roller coaster riders less vocal in expressing their thrills, it’s that most parks in the country banned screaming when they reopened. Shrieking at the apex of an inverted loop or half-way through a corkscrew is a great way to spread virus-carrying droplets far and wide, droplets that can be inhaled by other riders.
Like most COVID-19 rules in Japan, the ban on screaming is strongly encouraged but not strictly enforced. Typical is the practice of Oriental Land Co., which operates Tokyo Disneyland. It’s asking riders on its coasters to consider the safety of other guests in stifling their screams, which seems like a strategy that would not work in the United States.
It’s telling that Japan is the only country that has any such prohibitions on screaming. Parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai have reopened without any such rules, and the reopening plans for Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida don’t include any restrictions on screaming.
The Wall Street Journal talked to parkgoers in Japan about the new rule. They spoke of the difficulties of following the rule — “It’s kind of torture to be back at your favorite place in the world and to not be able to scream and enjoy everything 100%” was a typical response.
A mother said that it was impossible to keep her three-year-old daughter quiet on the rides at Disneyland, which is understandable. Another rider tried meditating which, while it did keep her quiet, also made the ride less fun.
Two executives at the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park heard complaints like these, and they responded with an incredible YouTube video. It shows them wearing masks and riding their park’s Fujiyama coaster in complete, unnerving silence. The video, which inspired a meme in Japan, ended with an unintentionally hilarious closing request of visitors.
“Please scream inside your heart.”