Let’s hug it out at USJ.

The above picture is my three-year-old daughter hugging Hello Kitty at Universal Studios Japan. She had no idea she was going to meet Hello Kitty and was totally surprised by what turned out to be one of the happiest moments of her life at that point. That was in 2019 though, and now six years old, she’s spent about half her life dealing with social restrictions, school closures, canceled events, hardly seeing anyone’s face in public, and all the other effects of the pandemic.

She’s probably too old to get quite the same kick out of it now, but it’s at least comforting to know that other little kids can get to have the same experience again. Since 8 May, in line with the government’s downgrading of COVID-19 to a category 5 illness, USJ has lifted its moratorium on hugging and high-fiving the various costumed characters that roam the park.

▼ Finally! I’ve been wanting to high-five this guy for so long…

The move also coincides with the park’s Thanks Love Month which straddles Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day but is intended to celebrate appreciation for everyone in one’s life by slapping heart-shaped thank-you stickers on each other.

In March 2020, USJ closed down completely for three months while state of emergency orders were in effect for several prefectures. It reopened in June but with limited attendance, limited attractions, and numerous safety rules and guidelines such as no touching the mascots.

But as the months and years passed by, these restrictions were gradually relaxed to the point that this latest move is bringing USJ back to pretty much how it was before the pandemic.

▼ In this news report from 8 May, a fair number of visitors voluntarily masking up can still be seen, but that’s not a far cry from pre-COVID Japan.

There’s an argument to be made that it’s too soon to be getting this relaxed as COVID-19 still has the potential to cause long-lasting and debilitating aftereffects. But it’s also fair to say that costumed mascots are probably among the lowest-risk people to transmit the disease with their masks to end all masks. Any aerosol droplet would have a really hard time making it all the way through Snoopy’s elongated snout, and Toad over in Super Nintendo World is like 50 percent mask. Speaking of which, the Mario and Luigi characters even have mouths that move, suggesting some sort of mechanical device is also between the mouth of the person inside and everyone around them.

▼ And don’t get me started with the Minions… I have no idea what’s going on inside those things.

So while the practice of wearing a face mask is still divisive among people, we can probably largely agree that it’s safe to let the mascots be free to do what they do. It’s a small thing that could make a world of difference to some kids out there.

Source: YTV
Photos ©SoraNews24
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