Tokyo Disneyland ordered to compensate costumed performer over nerve ailment

A female employee at Tokyo Disneyland suffered a nerve ailment after months of donning heavy character costumes.
A female employee at Tokyo Disneyland suffered a nerve ailment after months of donning heavy character costumes. PHOTO: FACEBOOK / TOKYO DISNEY RESORT

TOKYO - Disneyland is meant to be the "happiest place on Earth", but it is the stuff of nightmares for one female employee at the Tokyo theme park who has suffered a nerve ailment after months of donning heavy character costumes.

The 28-year-old contract worker, who has been awarded undisclosed damages by the labour authorities, started working at Tokyo Disneyland as a performer in February 2015, local media reported on Wednesday (Nov 22).

This is the second adverse incident that has come to light this year at Tokyo Disney Resort - which comprises Disneyland and DisneySea - after an acrobat died in April after falling from a height of 10m.

The woman's work, over two years, had sometimes involved donning costumes weighing up to 30kg. She began to feel numbness in her left arm around November last year, and her left hand also started trembling.

But it was difficult to take time off work as it was the festive season, and she had to perform in about 50 parades - including a series of Christmas shows in which she had to keep her arms above her face for the entire 45-minute parade.

Her condition worsened, and she saw a doctor in January this year after she began sensing acute pain whenever she moved her left arm. She was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which is caused by the compression of nerves and blood vessels that stretch from the neck to the arm.

The unnamed worker reportedly hopes to return to work at Tokyo Disneyland after she recovers fully, but with a reduced workload.

The case marks a rare judgment by Japan's labour authorities as it involves the acknowledgment of a non-accident- related ailment, for which cause-and-effect is largely difficult to prove.

This is unlike most cases, where compensation is ordered for injuries that are directly caused by work-related accidents, such as falls from height.

The labour office confirmed her condition was caused by the continuous engagement in labour that put heavy stress on her neck, shoulders and arms, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

The Asahi quoted a spokesman for Tokyo Disneyland operator Oriental Land as saying: "It is a regrettable case that should never have happened, and we are taking it seriously.

"We will make absolutely sure that our safety measures, including assigning trainers and improving costumes, are implemented."