After a year of pandemic life, many people need escape. On Thursday, thousands in Japan attended one in the fantasy land of the Mario Bros.
A theme park, Super Nintendo World, has opened at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, ending months of delays and testing the suggestion that people want to gather in large numbers as the coronavirus circulates to race in a Mario Kart or to ask questions block.
Authorities said they were taking steps to prevent the spread of infections. The park’s capacity is limited to 10,000 people. Guests’ temperature is taken when they enter, and they must wear a mask, wash their hands regularly and keep a distance from others.
The opening was the latest sign that the world is starting to crawl behind the closed doors of the pandemic as vaccinations increase and the virus is subdued, or as people simply get tired of abandoning the usual pleasures of life.
Japan has been spared the worst effects of the virus, with fewer than 9,000 deaths reported. But a vaccination campaign is barely underway, and Nintendo Park faces months of surgery before the population reaches a level of herd immunity.
The park was originally scheduled to open this summer, in time for the Tokyo Olympics, but the date has been moved to February. (The Olympics have also been postponed.) The opening has been delayed again after a rash of coronavirus cases in the Osaka area prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency. That statement was lifted on March 1.
Now Mario fans can make their way through the famous green chain pipe at the entrance of the park and break into a kingdom of fire-piranha plants and spring mushrooms, while the 8-bit song of the Super Mario Bros.- theme song appears in the background. .
For now, the only visitors are already in Japan. The country’s borders have been closed to non-residents for months.
“Once the pandemic subsides, I hope everyone around the world will visit us. We are waiting for you, ”said Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Mario franchise and a game director at Nintendo, during the opening on Thursday, wearing the character’s distinctive red hat.
The opening of the park follows the launch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a theme area within the Universal Studios parks in Japan, Florida and California. It is one of the first permanent attractions in the world based on a large video game franchise. Super Nintendo World parks are also planned in the coming years in Singapore and the United States.
Fans and gamers have said that such a theme park has long been in arrears, especially given the explosion of the gaming world over the past few years. Global video game sales reached nearly $ 180 billion last year, more than the US film and sports industries combined. The new park also takes advantage of the success of the Nintendo Switch, a video game console released in 2017. About 80 million units have been sold.
“Because it comes straight from the imagination of Shigeru Miyamoto, it really brings the atmosphere of Super Mario Brothers into the real world,” said Robert Sephazon, a game developer in Japan who visited the park.
“Even though it’s a bit of an escape, and it really works,” he added, the pandemic never completely disappears, with masks and hand disinfection to ensure shared touch screens pose no danger.
Inside the giant playground, visitors can explore Princess Peach Castle and eat burgers in a giant mushroom served by people dressed as Toad. However, the attractions are currently Mario-centric some have speculated that a closed door with a familiar design might be an idea that the site would include a Donkey Kong world.
“I could not know what world I was in, a virtual or a real person, because it was so well created,” said Moe Ueura, a 31-year-old high school teacher at Hyogo Prefecture who attended the opening ceremony. .
While fans rushed through the website on Thursday, others, overseas as well as in Japan, expressed sadness that it would take a while before they could escape into the world of Mario as well.
“I want to visit the Nintendo World when Covid is over,” he wrote a person on Twitter. “But I wonder when the day will be.”
Hisako Ueno contribution made.