Dusk in Ocean City, Maryland with the outline of an amusement park ride against the sunset sky and gloaming blue of nightfall. The idea are lit up for Christmas bring more tourist down for a winter getaway.
As Japan’s theme parks started reopening from COVID-19 closures in May, one thing was missing: roller coaster screams. You see, Japan’s theme park association has asked guests not to scream with excitement on rides.
The idea behind the no-scream challenge is that, when you scream, you might release coronavirus germs. Japan’s theme parks have bought into the idea so much that one park released a video of two executives, clad in business attire and masks, riding a popular roller coaster in silence. The video ends with, “Please scream inside your heart.”
This idea may be noble and made with the best of intentions, but guests aren’t crazy about it. The Wall Street Journal quoted a few recent guests to Tokyo Disneyland who aren’t thrilled that they can’t scream on their favorite attractions.
“There’s just no way not to scream,” said college student Rika Matsuura on a visit to Tokyo Disneyland last week when it reopened after a four-month break. “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%.”
Yuuki Suzuki said that he and his wife, who spent 12 hours refreshing Tokyo Disneyland’s home page to get tickets for reopening day, intended to get the full experience of the park.
“You don’t see Disneylands in other countries asking people not to scream. It’s too strict,” said Mr. Suzuki, noting that reopened parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai don’t have such a rule. “If a scream comes out, it comes out.”
Natsumi Kumasawa said that she tried to keep her 3-year-old daughter, Umi, quiet while on rides at Disneyland. “Basically she ended up shrieking the whole time,” said Ms. Kumasawa. “It was Umi’s first time at Disneyland, so it really couldn’t be helped.”
The Walt Disney Co. doesn’t directly manage Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, but Oriental Land Company, who does manage the parks, has agreed to abide by the no-screaming guidelines.
As a lifelong Disney fan who makes pilgrimages to Walt Disney World as often as I can, I can’t imagine coming back to the parks for the first time after quarantine and being told I can’t express my joy on rides. Heck, I can’t imagine it at Six Flags Over Georgia, and I’m not much of a screamer on roller coasters.
After the video of screamless executives made the rounds, Japanese park goers started something they called the “serious face challenge,” with YouTubers documenting their rides with stoic expressions.
One visitor to another theme park in Japan told the Wall Street Journal that she could only avoid screaming by not enjoying herself on her favorite coaster.
Kindergarten teacher Natsumi Goka tried meditating to avoid screaming on a Fuji-Q ride. Though she was wearing a mask at the park, she worried it might fly off or a camera might catch her clearly screaming underneath it.
By closing her eyes and emptying her mind of any of the fear or fun she was experiencing, she completed the ride successfully. But not happily.
“That’s the idea of a roller coaster—you scream,” said Ms. Goka. “I’m just waiting for the day when we can ride roller coasters and scream our hearts out again.”
Being told you can’t scream on a roller coaster is yet another sign of what a weird year 2020 has been. One day soon we’ll return to normal, but the bright side is that we have a ton of stories to tell future generations.