Silent but cheerful, mannequins enforce social distancing at Tokyo bar

Tokyo recently began to ease restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Above, people wearing face masks walk across the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Silent but cheerful, mannequins enforce social distancing at Tokyo bar

  • Tokyo recently began to ease restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

TOKYO: They may not be helping out with chants but complete with cheerleader uniforms and pom-poms, mannequins at one Tokyo bar are helping keep customers a safe — and cheerful — distance apart.
Tokyo recently began to ease restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a respite for bars and restaurants dependent on the city’s normally thriving nightlife even if customers are not yet back in full force.
“Our restaurant looked very empty and we wanted to add more excitement,” said Arata Funabara, owner of Cheers One, a cheerleading-themed bar in the capital’s upscale Ginza district which counts both women and men among its clientele.
Other safety measures include face shields and gloves for the bar’s cheerleader waitresses who perform karaoke songs on request. The shields and gloves are also on offer for patrons.
Waitress Chinatsu Fujii said the mannequins made for a safer work environment.
“It takes a bit of getting used to but it’s reassuring that they are here and I think of them of workmates,” she said.
Japan has recorded some 17,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 900 deaths.


Bosnian ‘energy pyramids’ boosted by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s visits

Updated 25 November 2020

Bosnian ‘energy pyramids’ boosted by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s visits

  • Tennis star Novac Djokovic has made two trips this year, hailing the site as a ‘paradise on earth’

VISOKO, Bosnia and Herzegovina: With tree-covered slopes that rise to a pointed summit, the mountain overlooking the Bosnian town of Visoko resembles any other ordinary hillside in the Balkan state.
Yet thousands of yearly visitors – including high-profile stars like Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic – don’t see it that way.
Despite scientists’ efforts to debunk the claims, large numbers of people still believe the hill is part of an ancient man-made pyramid complex with healing powers.
Djokovic, who is known for his new-age spiritual interests, has made two trips this year, hailing the site as a “paradise on earth.”
The mountain is now part of a controversial pyramid park founded by Semir Osmanagic, a 60-year-old self-styled explorer who “discovered” the site just outside of Sarajevo in 2005.
“I saw this hill covered with fir trees and vegetation, its slopes perfectly oriented toward the cardinal points,” Osmanagic, wearing a leather jacket and Indiana Jones-style hat, said on a recent weekend while leading a tour group through the site.
“It was obvious to me that it was not a natural hill but the construction” of a “technologically superior civilization,” he said, insisting it is the “largest and oldest pyramid ever built.”
Archaeologists have long ago disputed this theory as pseudo-science, saying the hill is a natural geological structure.
In a letter to Bosnian authorities in 2006, European archaeologists denounced the support given to a “cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public” that “has no place in the world of genuine science.”
But this did not prevent Osmanagic, previously a US-based businessman, from carrying out “archaeological excavations” on the hill with hundreds of volunteers from abroad.
He bought a piece of surrounding land, which includes a network of tunnels he says emit a curative energy force, and a few years later opened the park through his “Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun” foundation.
Today, the park is buzzing with visitors, who have come in even higher numbers since two recent trips from Djokovic.
In July and October, Djokovic made pilgrimages to the park and invited “all athletes” to take advantage of the healthy oxygen levels.
“I know there are many doubts and dilemmas about the authenticity (of the place),” he said in October.
But “in order to fully understand what is going on here... you have to come.”
After a quiet spring subdued by the pandemic, weekend crowds are back at the park, consisting mostly of visitors from the region.
“The beginning of the season was catastrophic, but since Djokovic has been here, it’s been a joy,” says Nermin Alihodzic, 47, who sells tourists colorful mini-pyramids and pieces of quartz.
While the government stopped backing the park over a decade ago, local authorities have helped finance the construction of roads, parking lots and other infrastructure to encourage tourists.
A five-euro ($5.94) entry fee for the whole park also includes access to the underground tunnel network which Osmanagic claims emit healing electromagnetic waves.
In his tour of the park, Osmanagic takes groups down to the chambers, urging them to hold their hands over a smooth rock and feel the “energy” rising.
Dzenana Halepovic, a 67-year-old from Sarajevo, is a frequent visitor.
In the tunnels “I feel good, I breathe well, I feel light. I simply feel like I’m receiving energy there,” she said.
For Enver Imamovic, a professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of Sarajevo, the project is pure scam.
The tunnels are likely “remnants of an ancient gold mine” while wedges of stones on the hillside, which believers consider to be the building blocks of the pyramid, are “nothing more than natural geological formations,” he said.
“Everything that is said about the pyramids is absolutely unacceptable.”
Founder Osmanagic has also been promoting the site as a place to “boost immunity” during the coronavirus pandemic.
While he insists no cures are guaranteed, he cites other alleged miracles in which people have been healed of ailments like hypertension, diabetes or even cancer after a trip to the underground tunnels.