In Tokyo's lockdown, some drink on even after authorities call time


A man drinks at the table outside a bar which opens after 8 PM, the time the government asks restaurants and bars to close by, amid the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, Japan, January 15, 2021. Picture taken on January 15, 2021. - Reuters

TOKYO, Jan 17 (Reuters): For Yuuki Hamazono, it was a relief to find bars and restaurants in Tokyo flouting the Japanese government's request to close by 8pm.

The 30-year-old financial trader was one of many people out in the Shimbashi nightlife district during the first weekend of an expanded state of emergency, with the government pleading for residents to stay home to contain the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Yoshihide declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures this month. He expanded it to 11 prefectures accounting for 55% of the population on Wednesday. Unlike in many other countries with mandatory lockdowns, Japanese authorities legally can only urge people to stay at home and businesses to close.

While compliance has been high - most of Shimbashi's karaoke bars and izakaya taverns were closed on Friday night - more people appear to be ignoring the state of emergency this time than one last year.

"There are people who can't have dinner until after 8pm, including me," Hamazono said, citing his working hours. He and a friend were looking for a place to duck into among a jumble of izakayas on Shimbashi's narrow streets.

Nearby, touts called out on the street, advertising places that were still open.

Authorities have worried about the potential spread of infection at bars and restaurants. In Shimbashi, many drinking spots are cramped and with poor ventilation.

The government has offered subsidies to establishments that close on time, but some say it's not enough, and worry about losing customers.

"Though there are subsidies, for restaurants and bars the relations of trust are important," said Yuji Tobe, a 34-year-old barman in a standing-only drinking spot, where wooden tabletops rest on stacks of plastic crates.

"We have a bond with our customers."

Tobe's bar was nominally closed, although two regulars were still being served.

Some criticise what they call a half-hearted government response. Suga has been accused of being slow to act out of fear of damaging the economy. His support has plunged.

"It's unclear whether getting the economy going or stopping corona comes first," said a man who gave his name only as Kazumasa. He was queuing for one the restaurants under the train tracks serving yakitori, skewers of grilled chicken.

The government is considering an amendment to give authorities more power to enforce a lockdown, the minister in charge of administrative and regulatory reform, Taro Kono, told Reuters on Thursday.

Until then, it seems likely that many will keep drinking.

"There are many times we need to talk business over drinks. That kind of communication is necessary to do business," said 48-year-old Motoki Mori, the owner of an event production company who was headed to a bar with his business partner.

"I don't think you can put a cut-off time on that." - Reuters
Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
   

Next In Aseanplus News

Asean News Headlines as at 8pm on Saturday (April 17)
Lawsuit over Indonesia 737 crash claims autothrottle problem
Four community infections among 39 new Covid-19 cases in Singapore
Indonesian companies ask China to up stake in high-speed rail project as its Covid-19 total nears 1.6 million
Thailand registers another 1,000-over cases as Covid-19 tally surpasses 40,000
US stops short of branding Vietnam, Switzerland, Taiwan currency manipulators
Nearly US$5bil of Vietnam's exports to EU benefit from EVFTA
Philippines' gross international reserves drop to US$104bil in March as Covid-19 cases keeps soaring; total now above 926,000
China's Ant explores ways for Jack Ma to exit as Beijing piles pressure
China's civil aviation sector fully recovers to pre-epidemic level, says report

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers