Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today (May 25) announced the country is completely lifting the state of emergency it had in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is slightly ahead of its planned end on May 31. With Abe announcing the outbreak is under control in the Pacific Island nation, Japan is moving on to new phases in its plan to “reclaim the lives we had before,” as Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike put it.
It could be a sign that more Japanese pro wrestling companies - including New Japan - are on the verge of returning. The first phase allows for concerts & sports in empty venues, and the country’s professional baseball league is already set to start games with no spectators on June 19. The schedule unveiled today would allow fans to begin to return on July 10, when venues could fill 50% of their capacity, up to 5,000 people. On August 1, 50% of capacity will be allowed without a ceiling.
Just like in the U.S., however, there is continued debate about the best way to handle the pandemic. New Japan, which hasn’t run a show since February, already cancelled all events up until June 6. Their president Harold Meij just recently outlined their requirements for resuming shows, and the lifting of the state of emergency was only one of them. Meanwhile, other promotions such as All Japan, Dragon Gate, and Pro Wrestling NOAH have held empty arena shows during the coronavirus crisis.
We’ll see what NJPW decides to do.