Photo/Illutration Morning commuters wait for a train at Nishi-Funabashi Station in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, on May 26. (Shiro Nishihata)

Rather than a sense of relief and liberation, nervousness marked the first post-state of emergency workday in Tokyo and four other prefectures--Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Hokkaido--on May 26. 

It was apparent that the government's request to stay home and telework for 50 days had shaken up people's daily lives and commutes.

Takumi Nagai, 36, a company employee, realized that the days of an uncrowded commute were over after boarding a rapid train bound for central Tokyo at Nishi-Funabashi Station in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.

“I see more of a flow of people,” he said.

Until about a week ago, Nagai could always grab a seat on a train of Tokyo Metro's Tozai Line, which is notoriously packed during rush hours, with nobody sitting next to him.

He had no such luck this morning, the first after the remaining state of emergency had been lifted the night before. It was the first time in a long while that Nagai had to cling to a hand strap as he stood on the crowded train.

“I know more commuters will be back, little by little,” he said. “And the thought makes me scared.”

At around 9 a.m., staff removed the blue tarps that had covered the playground equipment at Komazawa Olympic Park.

The popular park, which sits in Tokyo’s Meguro and Setagaya wards, had been closed under the state of emergency, which was issued for Tokyo and six prefectures on April 7 and extended nationwide on April 16.

The park staff finished digging over the sand on the playground to loosen the soil. Children took it as their cue to start playing in the sand.

Emiri Tada, 36, who lives nearby, brought her two children to the park to play.

“I feel both relieved and nervous,” she said. “Once the park gets crowded, I will take my kids somewhere else.”

The Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore in Omiya Ward of Saitama City resumed operations on the day for the first time in about three months.

Museum employees wearing face shields welcomed visitors, who are required to have their body temperatures checked and give their names and phone numbers in the event a patron later tests positive for the novel coronavirus.

A 47-year-old woman in Saitama brought her 8-year-old daughter to the museum after learning of the reopening on its website.

“This is my daughter’s favorite place to visit. We have been looking forward to coming here again,” she said.

The city of Yachimata in Chiba Prefecture reopened its public library after having been closed since April 14 to minimize the risk of the virus spread.

Visitors are asked to wear a face mask and use hand sanitizers at the entrance.

Only those who have pre-reserved books and other materials can check anything out from the collection as the library at present is prohibiting users from browsing the book stacks.

“It is inconvenient,” said a 14-year-old male junior high school student about the restrictions. “High school entrance exams are coming, and I hope I can soon use a study room here.”

The Kanagawa prefectural government is expected to ease business restrictions on pachinko parlors on May 27.

But a facility in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture, did not wait for the governor's blessing and reopened a day earlier.

The 32-year-old manager was confident that sufficient preventive measures have been taken, such as setting up an area for body temperature checks and placing partitions between each pinball machine.

Staff sanitized about 4 million pachinko balls while the business was shut down, he said.

He also hung a large banner inside the parlor, which says, “Keep going, Hadano!”

“It’s really tough to recoup the loss of sales,” he said.

But he felt somewhat vindicated when a customer who couldn’t wait to come to play pachinko again thanked him and said, “It’s been a long time, and I know you have hung tough.”

In Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, local officials are continuing to ask large commercial facilities such as department stores and shopping malls to remain closed for now.

A company employee in her 40s was disappointed to find out that such businesses would not reopen on the first day after the state of emergency was lifted.

“I was thinking that I could finally go shopping after work,” she lamented.

(This article was written by Yuji Masuyama, Natsuki Edogawa, Yasukazu Akada, Chisato Hayashi and Kenta Maeda.)