A participant lies inside a mock of coffin with plastic shields to maintain social distancing amid [Photo: Issei Kato]

Finding the pandemic scary? A Japanese group is trying to take people’s minds off COVID-19 - by putting them in coffins surrounded by chainsaw-wielding zombies.

Customers this weekend in Tokyo can lie in a 2-metre (6 1/2-foot) windowed box, listening to a horror story, watching actors perform and getting poked with fake hands and squirted with water.

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“The pandemic is stressful, and we hope people can get a bit of relief by having a good scream,” said Kenta Iwana, coordinator of production company Kowagarasetai - “Scare Squad” - which is putting on the 15-minute shows.

As Japan experiences a COVID-19 upswing - with 1,034 infections of the new coronavirus on Friday - Iwana, 25, is scrambling to find work for his actors, who normally perform at venues such as theme parks. Last month Kowagarasetai offered drive-in horror shows.

Customers, too, are looking for alternatives - and a way to blow off steam. “Lots of events have been cancelled because of the coronavirus, and I was looking for a way to get rid of my stress,” said Kazushiro Hashiguchi, 36, said after lying through the Sh820 (800-yen) show. “I feel relaxed now.”

Customers for the shows, held in a rest lounge usually used by passengers arriving in the capital on overnight bus trips, include shopping mall owners and operators of other venues who Iwana hopes will host his mobile shows.

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“We needed to have something that we could take anywhere, and coffins are easy to move. All you need to do is put them in a dark room,” said Iwana. “It’s good business for us and satisfying for our customers.”