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No masks required, but Japanese fans still wear them at WBC

March 13, 2023 GMT
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Spectators are packed at the stand waiting for the start of the Pool B game between Japan and Australia at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) at the Tokyo Dome Sunday, March 12, 2023, in Tokyo. The Japanese government relaxed its mask-wearing guidelines on Monday, but the vast majority of fans at the Tokyo Dome watching the World Baseball Classic still wore them. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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Spectators are packed at the stand waiting for the start of the Pool B game between Japan and Australia at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) at the Tokyo Dome Sunday, March 12, 2023, in Tokyo. The Japanese government relaxed its mask-wearing guidelines on Monday, but the vast majority of fans at the Tokyo Dome watching the World Baseball Classic still wore them. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government relaxed its mask-wearing guidelines on Monday, but the vast majority of fans at the Tokyo Dome watching the World Baseball Classic still wore them.

Nippon Professional Baseball also issued new guidelines. Spectators will now be allowed to cheer at the Tokyo Dome without wearing masks, which had been prohibited until Sunday, though some bent the rules.

The vast majority of people attending games at the Tokyo Dome on Monday were wearing a mask. But there were more maskless fans than the day before, though it was clear many did not know the guidelines had changed.

“Most Japanese are still wearing masks, and I’m doing it because I don’t want to be in the minority,” 19-year-old Kanon Shibuya said, standing inside the stadium.

The shift away from masks has been slow in Japan, where much of the public wore them even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Japanese pro team Fukuoka Softbank Hawks announced over the weekend that fans and employees could use their own judgement whether to wear masks.

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Shunsuke Kawano, 20, was also wearing a mask standing in the Tokyo Dome. He said he was still wearing it because of hay fever and also peer pressure,”

“It’s habit,” he said. “Maybe I’ll take it off in May or June when the weather is hotter.”

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Follow Japan-based AP sports writer Stephen Wade on Twitter at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP